(navigation image)
Home American Libraries | Canadian Libraries | Universal Library | Community Texts | Project Gutenberg | Children's Library | Biodiversity Heritage Library | Additional Collections
Search: Advanced Search
Anonymous User (login or join us)
Upload
See other formats

Full text of "National Historic Trails Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide: Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado"

National Trails System 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 



29.9/2:H 62/8/2010 

Clemson Universit 






3 1604 019 589 813 



National Historic Trails 

Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 



Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado 




FEDERAL 
PUBLICATION 




1 i 


it ft"j 




f i - ™ 

- KM 











w\ . \ 



v. 









Chimney Rock, in western Nebraska, was one of the most notable landmarks 

recorded in emigrant diaries and journals. Courtesy of The Wagner Perspective. 



NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAILS 

AUTO TOUR ROUTE INTERPRETIVE 

GUIDE 

Nebraska and Northeastern Colorado 



Prepared by 

National Park Service 

National Trails Intermountain Region 

324 South State Street, Suite 200 

Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 

Telephone: 801-741-1012 

www. nps.gov/cali 
www. nps.gov/oreg 
www. nps.gov/mopi 
www. nps.gov/poex 



NATIONAL PARK SERVICE 
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR 

August 2006 
Second Printing September 2010 



CONTENTS 



Introduction 1 

The Great Platte River Road 2 

From Path to Highway 4 

"A Whiz and a Hail" — The Pony Express 8 

A "Frayed Rope" 11 

The Platte Experience 15 

Natives and Newcomers: A Gathering Storm 18 

War on the Oregon & California Trails 21 

Corridor to Destiny 25 

Sites and Points of Interest 26 

Auto Tour Segment A — Odell to Kearney 27 

Auto Tour Segment B — Omaha-Central City-Kearney 37 

Auto Tour Segment C — Nebraska City-Central City-Kearney . .44 
Auto Tour Segment D — Kearney to Wyoming Border 47 

For More Information 66 

Credits 66 

Regional Map Inside Back Cover 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 




M 



INTRODUCTION 

any of the pioneer trails and other 
historic routes that are important in 
our nation's past have been designated by 
Congress as National Historic Trails. While 
most of those old roads and routes are 
not open to motorized traffic, people can 
drive along modern highways that lie close 
to the original trails. Those modern roads are designated as Auto 
Tour Routes, and they are marked with highway signs and trail logos 
to help today's travelers follow the trails used by the pioneers who 
helped to open a new nation. 

This interpretive publication guides visitors along the Auto Tour 
Routes for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony 
Express National Historic Trails as they approach and parallel the 
Platte River across Nebraska and cut across the northeastern corner 
of Colorado. Site-by-site driving directions are included, and an 
overview map is located inside the back cover. To make the tour more 
meaningful, this guide also provides a historical overview of the four 
trails, shares the thoughts and experiences of emigrants who followed 
those routes, and describes how the westward expansion impacted 
native peoples of the Great Plains. 

Individual Auto Tour Route interpretive guides such as this one are in 
preparation for each state through which the trails pass. In addition, 
individual National Park Service interpretive brochures for the 
Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National 
Historic Trails are available at many trail-related venues, and can 
be requested from the National Trails System Office at 324 South 
State Street, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, Utah 84111. These brochures 
provide more detailed information about each of the trails. Additional 
information on each trail also can be found on individual trail web 
sites. Links are listed on the title page of this guide. 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



THE GREAT PLATTE RIVER ROAD 

"Too thick to drink, too thin to plow, too pale to paint " "A mile wide 
and an inch deep. " "A stream flowing upside down. " 

Covered wagon pioneers of the 19th century liked to joke about 
Nebraska's Platte River, a stream unlike any they had known 
back East. But the Platte, strange as it looked, was no joke. A summer 
shower could send it raging over-bank and through camp; its soft 
quicksand bottom could swallow up an ox team. River crossings were 
ordeals to dread. 

The river's setting, too, seemed strange. Surrounding prairie, 
frequently cleansed by wildfire, was burned bare of trees right up to 
the water's edge, and a line of low sand hills, looking like a storm- 
wracked beach, rimmed much of the river valley. 

Yet the yellow Platte, that treeless "Coast of Nebraska," was an 
emigrant's lifeline — a water source that snaked 800 dusty miles 
between the Missouri River and the uplands of central Wyoming. 

Though a choked and sandy disappointment of a stream, the Platte 
always was and still is a natural east-west corridor across the central 
plains. Migrating game and moccasin-clad feet wore paths through 



"Fort Kearny & the South Platte 
River" by William Henry Jackson 











Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



the valley thousands of years before any white man ventured there. 
Like those first travelers, covered wagon emigrants and their slow, 
plodding oxen found water, grass, and fuel along the river. They also 
found the valley floor to be fairly level and smooth, a fine setting for 
roads in the 21st century as well as the 19th. When you drive the 
riverside routes of today's U.S. -26, U.S. -30, and 1-80 across Nebraska, 
you are following the footsteps of native explorers, hunters, traders, 
and fighters, and of mountain men, soldiers, and countless pioneers. 

This broad highway along the Platte River was known in the 19th 
century by a variety of names, depending on a traveler's purpose and 
destination. Some native peoples called it the Great Medicine Road; 
other travelers called it the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony 
Express Route or the California Road. 

But taken all together, the footpaths and wagon ruts that flanked the 
roiling, yellow Platte into Wyoming now have one name in common: 
The Great Platte River Road. 

[The Platte River] was fearful to look at, — rushing and boiling and 
yellow with mud, a mile wide, and in many places of unknown depth. 
The bed was of quicksand — this was the worst difficulty. — Margaret 
A. Frink, emigration of 1850 




■■H 



Buffalo Stampede" along the South 
Platte River by William Henry Jackson 



: 





tx**W£ 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



FROM PATH TO HIGHWAY 

Supply caravans hauling supplies to the annual fur trappers' 
rendezvous began following Indian paths along the Platte River 
and into the Rocky Mountains in the 1820s. Their pack trains and 
wagons wore rough tracks, or "traces," along both sides of the river 
across Nebraska and up the North Platte into Wyoming. In May 
1840, as the profitable trade in beaver pelts drew to an end, emigrants 
Joel and Mary Walker took four children and two wagons to join up 
with the last supply caravan leaving Independence, Missouri, for the 
final "Trappers' Rendezvous." From the rendezvous site in western 
Wyoming, the Walker family continued westward with a group of 
missionaries and trappers, reaching Oregon's Willamette Valley in 
mid-September. They were the first emigrant family to cross the 
continent on what would become the Oregon Trail, and their trek 
marks the beginning of the overland emigration era. 

In 1841, the first full wagon train of westbound settlers headed up the 
Platte. More wagons set out the following spring, and the next, and 
the next, gradually beating a well-defined wagon road along the south 
side of the river and into the Rockies. Maps of the emerging emigrant 
trails were published in 1843 and 1845 government reports prepared 
by explorer John C. Fremont, who was delighted to encounter 
pioneers using his work to guide them west. Fremont's mapping 
expeditions for the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers made 
him a national hero, and the dashing young officer inspired many 
Americans to start across the Nebraska prairie. 

The neglected old teamsters' trace along the Platte's north bank 
was revived in 1847, when a purposeful party of Latter-day Saints 
(Mormons) began developing its own road, apart from the main 
Oregon and California migrations. Thus began a distinct and separate 
current of the westward overland movement along Nebraska's Platte 
River. 

After years of conflict with anti-Mormons across several states, 
church leaders decided to move their people west to live and 
govern themselves according to their beliefs. Church President 
Brigham Young led the first phase of the Mormon emigration from 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Nauvoo, Illinois, to Winter Quarters (Omaha), Nebraska, in 1846. 
(The Nauvoo-to-Omaha trek is described in the Auto Tour Route 
Interpretive Guide for the Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail 
Across Iowa.) 

Mud and hardship dogged the Latter-day Saints across Iowa in 
1846, leaving them exhausted, sick, and hungry by the time they 
reached the Missouri River. Unable to go on, the Mormon pioneers 
built temporary shelters and settled in for the coming winter. At 
Winter Quarters and scattered settlements in Nebraska and across 
Iowa, more than 700 Mormon emigrants perished from exposure, 
malnutrition, and disease over the winter of 1846-47. 

During those brutal months, Brigham Young and his advisers 
prepared carefully for the final push over the Rocky Mountains, 
studying maps and reports and gathering equipment and supplies. 
Young left Winter Quarters in mid- April 1847 with a handpicked 
company of 143 young men, three women, and two children. For 
safety and efficiency, the group formed two large divisions, which 
later were divided into companies of fifty and ten. This well- 
disciplined lead party would trek across the prairie and through the 
mountains to the Valley of the Great Salt Lake to begin preparing 
a place for the thousands of faithful to follow during the coming 
summer. 

. . .we found that the River we had seen in the distance was none 
other than the celebrated "Platte," the highway of our future journey, 
which caused joy & rejoicing in my Soul. . . — Thomas Bullock, 1847 
Mormon emigration 

Keeping to the north side of the Platte River was key to Young's 
emigration plan. The trail along the south bank would be easier and 
grass for the cattle seemed to grow thicker there, but the Mormon 
leader wanted to avoid further clashes with anti-Mormons who might 
be emigrating along the Oregon and California road. Young's north- 
bank trail remained the primary route taken during the ongoing 
"Gathering of Zion" that spanned the next two decades, although 
many later Mormon parties did follow the Oregon-California Trail on 
the south side of the valley, instead. 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



Despite a tense encounter with Omaha Indians, the loss of two 
horses to Pawnees, and a prairie fire that forced the travelers to seek 
safety on a Platte River island, the Nebraska leg of the 1847 Mormon 
journey went smoothly Along the way, Young's party improved the 
road, set up trail markers every 10 miles, built ferries, and measured 
and made notes of the route to aid those who would follow. When the 
first Mormon wagons arrived in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake on 
July 23, 1847, the tired travelers immediately began breaking ground 
to plant potatoes and turnips. Over 2,000 Latter-day Saints were 
expected to arrive in the valley that summer. They would need food 
to survive the winter. 

In the spring of 1848, a third company of nearly 2,500 Mormon 
emigrants set out along the Mormon Trail across Nebraska and 
Wyoming to the settlement that would become Salt Lake City. 
Although the Mormons abandoned Winter Quarters at that time, later 
Mormon emigrants would continue to "jump off at Missouri River 
crossings near today's Council Bluffs/Omaha through the early 1870s. 

Brigham Young's hope of keeping Mormon emigrants safely 
segregated from other travelers was soon disappointed, though. 
Discovery of gold in California in 1848 opened the floodgates of 
emigration the following spring, when tens of thousands of men and 
women, the "49ers," rushed westward along both sides of the Platte 
River. « *n 

. . . When we left the Missouri River we followed the Platte. And we 
killed rattle snakes by the cord in some places; and made roads and 
built bridges til our backs ached. — Church President Brigham Young, 

Utaft* 



1868 

For an indefinite number of miles there seemed to be an unending 

stream of emigrant trains It was a sight which, once seen, can never 

be forgotten; it seemed as if the whole family of man had set its face 
westward. — William G.Johnston, emigration of 1849 

It was alarming to see the long strings of wagons that were on the 

road It would appear from the sight befor us that the Nation was 

disgorgeing its self and sending off its whole inhabitance. 
— James Pritchard, emigration of 1849 

6 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Gold-seekers swarmed the trailheads, or "jumping-off places," in the 
spring of 1849. They competed in frenzy for oxen, gear, and supplies, 
and those without wagons or draft animals set out on horseback or on 
foot — some even pushing wheelbarrows — to find their fortunes in 
California. The 49ers stampeded up the trails, mobbed the established 
river fords and ferries, and crowded into trailside campgrounds. 
Their livestock stripped the corridor of grass, and starving oxen 
dropped dying in their yokes. Travelers abandoned dead animals, 
extra food, all sorts of belongings, and sometimes even their wagons, 
turning the Platte River Valley into a long, stinking junkyard. The trail 
also became a cemetery: cholera, a deadly intestinal disease spread by 
contaminated water, raced the 49ers up the Platte, taking hundreds, 
maybe thousands, of victims to their graves. 

Oh! The sacrifice of wagons, clothing, fire arms, beds, bedding, Buffalo 
skins, trunks, chests, harnesses, and in the loss of life. The road to gold 
is strewed with destruction, wretchedness and woe; and yet, thousands 
and tens of thousands follow on in the way with the hope of securing 
the wealth of this world. — Orson Hyde, Mormon emigration of 1850 

Despite these troubles, some 25,000 Americans went West in 1849 — 
more than the previous nine years combined! The next year, nearly 
50,000 souls set feet and face toward the Pacific, lured by the hope 
of riches in California and the promise of prime farmland in Oregon. 
The flow of emigration peaked in 1852 when some 60,000 people 
hit the trails, and then continued in fits and starts — surging during 
economic hard times and during later Western gold and silver rushes, 
and dwindling when wars loomed. 

The one-time Indian footpath had become a permanent highway, 
with the Platte River for a centerline. 

The trail was nearly a quarter of a mile wide — that is, a row of 
wagons fifteen-hundred feet across, and extending in front and to 
the rear, as far as we could see. . .a vast sea of white flapping wagon 
covers, and a seething mass of plodding animals. — John K. Stockton, 
emigration of 1852 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



"A WHIZ AND A HAIL" — The Pony Express 

Adding another strand to the twisted braid of trail along the Platte was 
a crack team of young saddle-toughs who carried mail across the 
continent for the Pony Express. 

The Pony Express was a cross-country relay of horses and riders 
carrying letters and dispatches in both directions between St. Joseph, 
Missouri, and San Francisco, California. In those pre-telephone, pre- 
telegraph days, news going to California via regular mail could take up 
to six months to arrive. For a premium fee (about $85 per half-ounce 
in today's money), "the Pony" could deliver that letter in 10 to 16 
days, depending on weather conditions. 

This was a private business venture launched in 1860 by partners 
William Russell, William Waddell, and Alexander Majors, who 
also ran a freighting operation out of Nebraska City. Hoping for a 
profitable federal mail-delivery contract, the partners established 
a string of stations across the West, stocked them with fast, hardy 
horses, and hired around 80 skilled riders to relay the mail between 
stations. Each rider would carry the mail pouch (called a mochila) 
along his leg of the route, thrilling emigrants and stagecoach 
passengers with a "whiz and a hail" as he galloped past them. 

Driving slow oxen seemed pretty tame compared with jumping on 
spirited ponies and going full tilt along the old trail, past the emigrant 
trains and freight outfits, or even bands of Indians. 
— William Campbell, Pony rider in Nebraska 

The Pony Express riders would head out with the post as soon as they 
received the mochila, any time of the day or night and in all weather. 
Pony Expressman Richard Cleve rode 75 miles across eastern 
Nebraska through a raging blizzard, only to find that his relief rider 
at the next station was too sick to sit his horse. Cleve remounted and 
floundered on through whiteout conditions, snowdrifts, and sub- 
zero temperatures for another 75 miles. Man and horse stumbled 
into their final station after 36 hours on the trail. Other riders 
completed similar death-defying runs, and stories of their bravery 
and endurance were repeated across the nation. 

8 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



I. . .found it impossible to find the road. I would get off the horse and 
look for the road, find it and mount the horse, but in five yards I would 
lose it again. — Pony Express Rider Richard Cleve 

Despite their one-time celebrity, those riders are known to few today. 
Only two names still loom above the unsettled dust of Pony history: 
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok and William "Buffalo Bill" Cody. 
Hickok was a Pony Express stock-tender at Rock Creek Station, 
Nebraska, where he launched his career as a gunslinger in a brutal 
shootout over a Pony Express business debt. Cody, on the other 
hand, was a showman who told exciting tales about his adventures 
as a teenage Pony Express rider, and even re-enacted those events in 
his touring Wild West show. His stories seem unlikely, though, and 
historians doubt that Cody ever worked for the Pony at all. Accurate 
or not, Buffalo Bill's Wild West performances captured the spirit of 
the Pony and branded its legend deep into the nation's identity. 

These days it is hard to separate truth from the myth of the Pony 
Express. The enterprise was so short-lived that it left little in the 
way of business records, and most of those — letters, receipts, 
payroll logs, etc. — have disappeared. History is further muddled 
by romanticized accounts, faulty memories, and outright hoaxes. 
Researchers today disagree on who was the first rider to leave St. 



"Pony Express Rider Chased by 
Indians" by William Henry Jackson 




Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



Joseph with the first mochila full of mail, and where exactly he 
left from, and whether the western terminus was Sacramento or 
San Francisco. Students of the Pony debate trail routes, argue the 
authenticity of "original Pony Express stations," and even wonder if 
some Pony riders were women disguised as boys. Serious researchers 
are still sifting through the lore, sorting sweet fables from sweaty 
reality and discovering long-lost nuggets of factual Pony history. 

But this much is sure: The Pony Express helped run its owners into 
scandalous financial ruin within 19/2 short months. The operation 
quickly racked up expenses while the hoped-for government contract 
shyly stayed beyond reach. Completion of the transcontinental 
telegraph system on October 24, 1861, made the debt-ridden Pony 
obsolete. Riders finished their last run on November 20, 1861. 

Ere long, the "Pony Express" must give place to the telegraph, and not 
many years can elapse before the Pacific Railroad will supersede the 
overland express to California. — George Ellis Baker, 160 







Ml "VI 1:1. WD I'i iXY I XIMJESS - 



Completion of the transcontinental telegraph system on October 24, 1861, made 

the Pony Express obsolete. Courtesy of the Library of Congress, from Harpers Weekly. 



10 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



A "FRAYED ROPE 



?? 



The Great Platte River Road was no neatly engineered lane where 
prairie schooners rolled prettily in single file, but an evolving, 
rowdy free-for-all of multiple ruts scoring the river valley. Traffic went 
both ways as emigrants, commercial freight caravans, stagecoaches, 
and postal relay riders moved back and forth between East and West. 
New tracks were created as ox-drawn wagons and mule trains passed 
each other and spread out three, six, or more abreast to escape the 
choking dust kicked up by those ahead. New cutoffs were developed 
as travelers sought out the shortest, safest, and fastest ways into and 
through the Platte River Valley. 

On maps, the road's eastern end took on the appearance of a 
frayed rope, with strands funneling traffic into the Platte Valley 
from numerous "jumping off places" along the Missouri River. 
Several strands of the rope brought overland traffic from the 
southern departure points at Independence, Westport, Kansas City, 
Leavenworth, Atchison, St. Joseph, and Amazonia. These feeder 
routes, heavily used in the early years of the migration, led across 
northeastern Kansas and into the valley of the Little Blue River. The 
main trail followed that stream northwestward into Nebraska, crested 
a 20-mile-wide divide, and then dropped to the Platte. 



"Crossing the Missouri" by 
William Henry Jackson 














t 






I | 




f/./U^/ 






mmmm^mm 



11 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



More strands of trail led directly into the Platte Valley from Omaha/ 
Council Bluffs, Bellevue, Plattsmouth, Old Wyoming, Minersville, 
Nebraska City, and other northern "jumping off places." By the early 
1850s, most emigrant traffic set out from the northern Missouri River 
ports, cutting off nearly 200 miles of overland travel across Kansas. 
Commercial and military traffic, much of it from St. Joseph and Fort 
Leavenworth, continued to use the Kansas feeder routes into the 
Platte Valley. 

Parties setting out from Council Bluffs and Omaha on the Mormon 
Trail (also called the Council Bluffs Road) north of the Platte had to 
ford the Elkhorn and Loup Rivers and cross some broken country, 
but overall found easy traveling. Where the river forks near today's 
city of North Platte, those travelers kept to the north, following the 
Mormon route along the North Platte River into today's Wyoming. 

. . . You would be surprised to see the ways of travel. Large trains of 
carts with one ox on a cart, some wagons with 8 yoke, wile go hundred 
horse teams, mule teams, sail wagons goes by wind and steam wagons 
and hand carts and whele barrows. So wags the tide of life. — Squire 
Lamb, Nebraska stage station operator, 1862 




"Sand Hills of the Platte Ri 
William Henry Jackson 




y 




it** 



12 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Trail strands coming into the south side of the Platte Valley braided 
together into a single main road just east of Fort Kearny, a military 
outpost established in 1848 to aid the Oregon emigration. South- 
side travelers continued from Fort Kearny along mostly smooth and 
level terrain to the confluence of the North and South Platte Rivers. 
Some parties crossed to the north bank of the South Platte near the 
confluence, but most continued on the south side to O'Fallon's Bluff. 
That three-mile-long obstacle at the river's edge forced wagons up 
and over the bluff, where they wore ruts that are still visible today. 

[The sand hills are] broken into separate and rugged peaks and 
elevations, like some gigantic ocean breaker dashing its immense 
volume into a hundred different waves. — James Meline, emigration 
of 1866 



From O'Fallon's Bluff, travelers continued along the South Platte a 
short distance to one of several river fords. There, wagons could cross 
over to the North Platte and follow its south bank — paralleling the 
Mormon Trail on the opposite side — to Fort Laramie. Two of these 
South Platte crossings forced wagons on a steep, difficult climb up 
California Hill and then a steep, dangerous drop down Windlass 
Hill — and all three routes dipped into pleasant Ash Hollow, where 
the unwary sometimes were confronted by Indians. By 1860, most 

Through Mitchell Pass" at Scott's 
Bluff by William Henry Jackson 




13 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



travelers, including Pony Express riders, avoided those hazards by 
following the South Platte all the way to Julesburg, Colorado, and 
then cutting northwest to rejoin the Great Platte River Road near 
Courthouse Rock. 

From Courthouse Rock, the south-bank road continued northwest 
toward the spectacular spire of Chimney Rock, the most famous 
landmark on the combined emigrant trails. The route then went 
around (later, through) Scotts Bluff before continuing into Wyoming. 
Many travelers paused to explore, sketch, and carve their names into 
these features. Those following the Mormon Trail on the north side of 
the river also could see Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts 
Bluff, and often described them in their journals. 



"Old Fort Mitchell" near Scotts 
Bluff by William Henry Jackson 




- -^ - 



■•«wv 







14 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



THE PLATTE EXPERIENCE 

Otoe Indians called this region "Nebrathka," meaning "flat water," 
and the French word "Platte" means the same. The defining 
flatness of the broad Platte River Valley, which averages five to seven 
miles wide, made it ideal for animal-powered travel on both sides 
of the stream. Besides being "good wheeling," the long Platte River 
stretch of trail also provided plenty of water and native grasses for 
game and livestock. Many emigrants later recalled it as the easiest, 
most pleasant part of their westering journey. 

. . Asprity a rode as I ever saw it is level and smooth as a plank 

floor. — Dr. A. H. Thomasson, emigration of 1850 

We traveled through the most level plains I ever saw in my life. Here is 
such a scenery of beauty as is seldom witnessed. — Joseph Williams, 
circa 1842 

The sight of a tree is out of the question. It is seldom we see so mutch as 
a bush. — Levi Jackman, Mormon emigration of 1847 

North or south of the Platte, travelers shared similar experiences. 
Some were delighted by the open, treeless expanse while others were 
dismayed by it. Many wrote of the flowers, animals, sand hills, and 
rock formations they encountered along the trail. Nearly everyone 
complained about the dirty water, the quicksand, and the swarming, 
biting insects. Most were thrilled by their first sighting of bison and 
their first taste of buffalo steak, but not so happy about having to 
collect and cook over "buffalo chips" due to the scarcity of firewood. 

Bison, or American buffalo, had been hunted out of their range in the 
eastern United States by the early 1800s. In the first decades of the 
emigration, Easterners saw their first buffalo along the Platte in vast 
numbers, herds of thousands and tens of thousands that covered the 
plains like a brown, woolly blanket. The massive herds sometimes 
blocked wagon trains for miles, and occasionally charged through 
a wagon train or trail side camp, frightening livestock and wrecking 
wagons. Professional buffalo hunters slaughtered bison to sell their 
hides for industrial uses, soldiers killed them to provision their forts, 

15 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



and emigrants shot them for food as well as sport. By the early 1860s, 
travelers saw few buffalo in the Platte River Valley. 

Plains wildlife, natural beauty, and minor complaints aside, 
trudging in the choking dust with ox-team and wagon under the 
hot Nebraska sun was no picnic. Many noted in their journals the 
furious storms that raged over the plains, stampeding livestock and 
terrifying travelers — even killing some. People died from accidental 
gunshot, slipping under wagon wheels, injuries caused by unruly 
oxen, drowning during a stream crossing, and from complications 
of pregnancy and childbirth. Cholera took many lives, leaving single 
parents to carry on alone, hundreds of miles from home, with a 
wagonload of youngsters — or worse, leaving frightened orphans to 
depend on the kindness of strangers. Many of the dead were buried 
in unmarked graves on the wagon trail itself, in hopes that neither 
wolves or Indians would rob their final resting place. 

The [buffalo] dung was thick in most places, and like chips and score 
blocks — for this and the sake of softening a hard word they go by the 
name of Buffalo chips. — Oliver Boardman Huntington, Mormon 
emigration of 1847 

There came up a storm in the afternoon. The wind blew very hard and 
on the opposite side of the river a tremendous hurricane. We saw trees 
flying on the air and water blown out of the River as high apparently 
as the clouds. — James John, emigration of 1841 

. . . instead of a single fork or chain [of lightning] a dozen would burst 
from the dark mass & rush in every direction like serpents from a 

rocket at times the whole heavens would appear to be as a blaze 

for several seconds during which time the minutest object could be 

discovered. — William Henry Tappan, civilian draftsman at Fort 

Childs (Fort Kearny), June 1848 

The team behind us stop[ped] in mid-stream. . .and the treacherous 
sand gave way under their feet. They sank slowly, gradually, but surely. 
They went out of sight inch by inch, as the water rose over the moaning 
beasts. Without a struggle they disappeared beneath the surface. In a 
little while the broad South Platte swept on its way, sunny, sparkling, 



16 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



placid, without a ripple to mark where a lonely man parted with all his 

fortune. 

— Luzena Stanley Wilson, emigration of 1849 

Indians were a huge worry for many travelers, though for the most 
part emigrant encounters with Native Americans on the trails across 
Nebraska were peaceful, even enjoyable. In the early years of the 
emigration, in particular, native people viewed the "Great Medicine 
Road" as a kind of grand market where they could trade for goods 
and visit with travelers. Emigrants and Indians, including the much 
feared Pawnees, exchanged many acts of personal kindness; and the 
Sioux, who controlled most of the Platte River Valley, allowed the 
wagons to pass in peace. 

Still, most emigrants entered Indian Country expecting the worst. 
Their fears of Indian attack were fueled by rumors, hoaxes, and 
lurid half-truths in newspapers and popular books — but also by a 
long history of very real, very violent Indian and settler conflicts in 
the East. Rumor, history, and experience likewise gave native Plains 
people reason to be wary of white Americans. When the first great 
flood of humanity and beasts rushed up the Platte Valley in 1849, 
stripping the countryside of grass and driving off the buffalo and 
other wild game, that wariness began to turn to resentment. 




"Teepees on the Plains" Lantern Slide by Walter McClintock. 

Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. 



17 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



NATIVES AND NEWCOMERS: A Gathering Storm 

As American settlers surged westward across the eastern 
woodlands and prairies in the early 19th century, they pushed 
American Indians out of their ancestral homes. The U.S. government 
resettled many of those displaced Eastern tribes — the Kickapoo, 
Delaware, Potawatomi, and others — in congressionally designated 
Indian Territory west of the Missouri River and south of the 
Platte. The resettled Eastern tribes were among the first Indians 
encountered by emigrants passing through northeastern Kansas. 

Settlements for the Eastern tribes were carved out of territories 
already occupied by the Kanza, Otoe, Missouria, Osage, Pawnee, and 
other Missouri River tribes. Those groups, in turn, were forced to 
move, giving over their traditional hunting grounds and village sites to 
the Eastern groups. Their relocation often put them closer to enemies 
such as the Cheyenne and Sioux, powerful Indian nations that had 
moved out onto the Nebraska plains from their eastern woodland 
and prairie homelands. 

The Pawnee of northern Kansas and east-central Nebraska were one 
of many tribes displaced by white settlement. Pawnees were settled 
village dwellers who lived in earth-lodges, raised garden crops, and 
ranged onto the plains to hunt buffalo. In 1833, they agreed in a treaty 
with the U.S. to surrender their weapons, give up their lands south 



"Indians Attack Wagon Train" by Frederick 

Remington. Courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & 
Manuscript Libram/, Yale University 





■^•^•iiiipi i«^ 



18 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



of the Platte, and relocate their villages to make room for displaced 
Eastern tribes. In return, the United States promised them protection. 

The move put the Pawnees closer to territory controlled by the 
Lakota Sioux, their traditional enemies. In lightning attacks, Lakota 
fighters began systematically striking Pawnee settlements along the 
Loup River. The promised Army protection, if it came, was too little 
and too late. The Pawnees moved their villages back to the south side 
of the Platte to buffer them from their Plains enemies, but hostilities 
continued. As the Western emigrant trails opened in 1841, the 
Pawnee and Lakota — both fierce and eager fighters — were engaged 
in total warfare. At the same time, the Pawnee also battled other 
Missouri River tribes, such as the Kanza and Osage. In the early years 
of the emigration, war parties crisscrossed the wagon trails, clashed 
in bloody conflicts, and carried war trophies home past unnerved 
pioneers. While those war parties did not attack white settlers, they 
seemed an uneasy omen of troubles to come. 

The river of white-topped wagons flowing across their lands certainly 
brought troubles to the tribes. Cholera, influenza, smallpox, and 
measles carried by sick travelers spread to American Indians along 
the trail. Pioneers slaughtered bison and turned out their livestock 
to graze on the buffalo feeding grounds, causing the great herds on 
which the tribes depended to retreat from the Platte Valley. As years 
passed, more and more emigrants left the Platte River Road to settle 
in Nebraska, where many hungrily eyed "empty" Indian lands. Some 



"Hunting Buffalo on the Plains 
by William Henry Jackson 











- .*» ."«»* 



19 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



settlers trespassed on tribal property to steal timber and game, and 
others boldly built illegal homesteads on Pawnee lands north of the 
Platte. 

These Indians have long held undisputed possession of this extensive 
region, and. . .they consider themselves entitled to compensation, not 
only for the right of way through their territory, but for the great and 
injurious destruction of the game, grass, and timber, committed by our 
troops and emigrants. 

— Luke Lea, Indian agent, 1859 

Practical and shrewd, the Pawnees demanded that emigrants pay to 
cross their ancestral lands and use their resources. If refused fair 
payment, they were known to take travelers' belongings or raid their 
livestock — their skill and daring in stalking emigrant herds was 
legendary. Pawnees could be threatening, even dangerous, when 
confronting white travelers, and they were blamed for a number 
of killings along the Nebraska trails. Many a pioneer approached 
Pawnee country with fear and a ready rifle. 

All of the Pawnee nation are noted for their love of plundering 
travelers of their horses and mules, but not often anything else. 

— William Clayton, Mormon emigration of 1847 

By the late 1850s, the friction between whites and Indians led settlers 
to demand that the Pawnee be removed from Nebraska Territory. 
Instead, in 1859 the tribe reluctantly signed away the rest of its land 
and moved its villages to a reservation north of the Loup River — 
once again on the outskirts of enemy territory. The Lakota and their 
allies, the Cheyenne and Arapahos, stepped up their attacks on the 
Pawnees' reservation villages, striking at least eight times that year. 

Pawnee, Sioux, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and emigrants all would soon 
collide in warfare on the Nebraska frontier. 

A smothered passion for revenge agitates these Indians, perpetually 
fomented by the failure of food, the encircling encroachment of the 
white population, and the exasperating sense of decay and impending 
extinction with which they are surrounded. — William Bent, trader 
and Indian agent, 1859 

20 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



WAR ON THE OREGON & CALIFORNIA TRAILS 

[The white man] takes our property without paying for it! He kills our 
game, he eats our meat, he burns our wood, he drinks our water, and 
he travels our country, and what does he give the red man in exchange 
for all this? — Marto-cogershne, Sioux chief, as reported by fur 
trader Rufus B. Sage, 1841 emigration 

Once-friendly Western tribes watched with mounting anger as 
emigrants helped themselves, often wastefully, to their game, 
grass, water, and wood. Indian agents warned of bloody conflicts 
ahead if the issues between native peoples and emigrants were not 
soon resolved. In response, the U.S. government called for a treaty 
conference to be held near Fort Laramie, Wyoming, in September 
1851. Some 12,000 members of 11 different Northern Plains tribes 
answered the call, gathering at Horse Creek in western Nebraska for 
the "Big Talk." Over a period of about three weeks, native leaders 
and government representatives pounded out an agreement, the Fort 
Laramie Treaty of 1851, to guarantee a long-term peace along the 
trails. 







C' '■«• ii*u > t*D 'VI to i*t 



ILtt M VUSItil 



AHEN • 



"Indians on the Wagon Trail" by Charles M. Russell. Courtesy of the Beinecke 

Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University 



21 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



The agreement was undone three years later by a stray cow. In mid- 
August 1854 just a few miles east of Fort Laramie, a cow from a 
Mormon emigrant train bolted into a trailside camp of Brule Lakota, 
who slaughtered it for food. In response to complaints by the cow's 
owner, Lt. John Grattan led a detachment of soldiers out of Fort 
Laramie to confront the Indians in their camp. Grattan provoked 
a firefight that ended with his entire 31 -man command — and the 
respected Brule leader, Conquering Bear — dead. 

As punishment for the Grattan defeat, U.S. Army troops under 
General William Harney surrounded and destroyed a Brule Lakota 
village at Blue Water Creek, Nebraska, in September 1855. Many 
fleeing women and children as well as defending warriors died 
in the attack. This and similar military actions against the Plains 
Indians over the next several years fanned smoldering resentment 
into burning outrage. Small bands of young warriors struck back in 
1862-63 by opportunistically attacking isolated homesteads, work 
parties, and freight teamsters in Colorado and Nebraska. Then, for 12 
sweltering August days in 1864, Indian military strikes forced travel 
on the Great Platte River Road to a halt. 

The Platte valley is ours, and we do not intend to give it away. We 
have let the white man have it so that he could pass, but he has gone 
over it so often now that he claims it and thinks he owns it. But it is still 
ours, and always has been ours. — Brule Sioux Chief Sinte-Galeska 
(Spotted Tail), 1864 

Along the Little Blue and up the Platte River to Julesburg, war parties 
of Cheyenne, Lakota, and Arapaho fighters made coordinated attacks 
on emigrant wagons, freight teams, and stagecoaches on the emigrant 
trails. They particularly targeted lonely homesteads, stage stations, 
and road ranches — simple hostels that served travelers on the 
wagon trails — along the Little Blue River. There, warriors killed 51 
white adults and children and took seven hostages, several of whom 
died during captivity or shortly after their release months later. The 
number of Indian fighters killed is unrecorded. 

The U.S. Army could ill afford to divert soldiers from its Civil War 
fronts to the Nebraska frontier. The company sent from Fort Kearny 

22 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



to secure the emigrant trails was outnumbered, out-horsed, and out- 
distanced by the Indians. Pawnee men, though, were glad to help the 
Army fight their old enemies, and more than 100 of them volunteered 
for duty as frontier scouts. 

The Indians have committed terrible depredations along three hundred 
miles of the route, burned and pillaged everything, destroyed six 
thousand bushels of corn atjulesburg, burned hundreds of thousands 
of dollars' worth of wagons, merchandise, &c... — Demas Barnes, 
passenger on Overland Stage on the Oregon-California Trail, 1865 

Fighting continued across Nebraska, Colorado, and Wyoming the 
next year, with native leaders now targeting telegraph lines, stage 
lines, railroads, forts, and settlements in their effort to halt the 
emigration and regain control of their native territory. In response, 
entire Army regiments were assigned to protect the trail, with soldiers 
stationed at small outposts, road ranches, and telegraph stations 
along the road west of Fort Kearny. Attacks and counter-attacks by 
both sides flared over the Plains through the 1860s, causing many 
established settlers to flee Nebraska. Despite the danger, emigrants 
still poured into the West. The fighting did not truly end until the 
Lakota and Cheyenne people were finally forced onto reservations 
in the 1870s. The Pawnees, though they fought for the U.S., fared no 
better: white settlement pressures, starvation, and a final, disastrous 
battle with the Lakota forced them out of their Nebraska homeland. 
The tribe moved to Oklahoma in 1873-75 and sold its Loup River 
reservation. 

Most of the overland trail traffic ended 
in 1869 with completion of the 
transcontinental railroad, which 
provided a faster, safer way West. The 
era of the overland wagon was 
drawing to a 
close, and the 
era of the fuel- 
powered steam 
engine and the 
automobile was 




nr*, r " 






" ' I \ -*>*fh 



^tM'ffh%t& 



23 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



dawning. Some of those who traveled the Great Platte River Road 
with ox and wagon would live to see their dusty, rutted trail become a 
modern paved highway. Those pioneers took about six weeks to cover 
the nearly 500 miles along the Platte from the Missouri River to Scotts 
Bluff. Today's travelers can make the drive on Interstate 80 in less than 
eight hours. 



24 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



CORRIDOR TO DESTINY 

Nebraska's Great Platte River Road was a vital, throbbing 
artery that carried freight, communications, and hundreds of 
thousands of people — both west and east. At the same time, the road 
was a trespass that led to the taking of American Indian homelands, 
resources, and self-governance. Physical traces of this mixed legacy 
still abound along the four historic trails that followed the Platte River 
west across Nebraska. 

There are trail ruts, worn into the earth by the passage of hundreds 
of thousands of hooves, feet, iron-clad wagon wheels, and stepping- 
stone walkways to long-gone cabins. There are the hollows where 
teepees once nestled and black-haired children played, wooded 
creek-banks that concealed painted warriors, and still-grassless, hard- 
packed earth where pawing ponies long ago awaited their mochila 
and rider. There are gravestones and lonely windblown fields where 
men and women, emigrant and Indian, died defending home and 
family. There are the iconic landmarks, open skies, and expansive 
landscapes of the Western frontier. Through and among them still 
winds that corridor to destiny, the Platte River. 




"Westward America" along the Great Platte 
River Road of Nebraska by William Henry 
Jackson 




*-"7^f^^c^*-" 




25 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



SITES AND POINTS OF INTEREST 

Auto Tour Routes for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, 
and Pony Express National Historic trails enter Nebraska in 
three locations and come together near the city of Kearney. From 
there, the routes follow the Platte River and North Platte River west 
into Wyoming. Watch for Auto Tour Route markers with trail logos 
along each of the routes. 

If you are mostly interested in Pony Express, the earliest routes of the 
Oregon and California Trails, and the Indian uprisings of the 1860s, 
follow Auto Tour Segment A to Kearney as described below. If you 
wish to trace the steps of the 1847 Mormon pioneers from Winter 
Quarters or follow California and Oregon emigrants who started 
out from the vicinity of Omaha and Council Bluffs, see Segment B 
(starting onpg. 36). Many later Oregon, California, and Mormon 
emigrants "jumped off from other places along the Missouri River. 
The "cutoff trails from those places are not included in this driving 
guide because they are not congressionally authorized segments of 
any current national historic trail. If you are interested in freighters, 
early Western military history, or emigrants who started their trek 
from Nebraska City along the Oxbow Trail, follow Segment C (starting 
onpg. 43). Auto Tour Segment D (beginning onpg. 45) follows the 
combined trail corridor from Kearney to the Wyoming border. 

Many of the historic stops described below are on private property, but are 
interpreted and can be viewed from the roadside. Please respect private 
property rights: do not cross fences or enter sites without the landowner's 
permission. 

Caution! Many Nebraska county roads have well maintained dirt or 
gravel surfaces. Although the roads are suitable for two-wheel-drive 
passenger sedans, vehicles can get stuck when the roads are muddy. 



26 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



AUTO TOUR SEGMENT A: ODELL TO KEARNEY 

(Oregon, California, and Pony Express Trails) 

Begin this segment of your Nebraska auto tour of the Oregon, 
California, and Pony Express National Historic Trails near the 
Nebraska/Kansas border at the junction of Kansas Highway 148 and 
Nebraska Highway 8 west of Odell. This is where Pony Express riders 
and the first Oregon and California emigrants out of Independence, 
Missouri, entered Nebraska. (Their routes through Kansas are 
explored in the Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide: Western Missouri 
Through Northeastern Kansas.) Much of Auto Tour Segment A entails 
travel on maintained dirt roads. 

A-l. Rock Creek Station 

State Historical Park (57426 

County Road 710, 5 miles 

east of Fairbury) is best 

known as the place where 

Pony Express stock-tender 

"Wild Bill" Hickok gunned 

down three men. The station 

also was a road ranch that 

served California and Oregon 

emigrants. The 350-acre park 

offers Pony Express exhibits, 

reconstructed buildings, pioneer graves, and trail ruts. Grounds are 

open summer, 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; other seasons, 8 a.m.-sunset. Visitor 

Center is open from mid- April through late September, daily, 10 

a.m.-5 p.m.; and on weekends in October. To arrange off-season 

and after-hours tours call 402-729-5777. Modest fee for daily park 

permit; annual Nebraska state park passes are available. For more 

information, contact the park at ngpc. rock. creek. station@nebraska. 

gov 
Directions: Take NE-8 west toward Endicott and follow signs to 
Rock Creek Station State Historical Park on County Road 710. 




I^^HM 



!■■■■■■■■■ 



;>-^**Au 



Rock Creek Station State Historic Park. 



Also of Interest: Homestead National Monument (8523 West NE- 
4, four miles west of Beatrice) is off the auto tour route, but is worth 
a detour. The monument commemorates the Homestead Act of 



27 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



1862 and the life of the prairie 
pioneers. Attractions include 
historic buildings, restored tall 
grass prairie, antique farming 
equipment, museum exhibits 
and videos, and hiking trails. 
For hours, go to www.nps.gov/ 
home or call 402-223-3514. 
Free admission. 

Directions: From Rock 

Creek, go east on County 

Road 710 for 0.5 mile, then north on 575 th Avenue for 5 miles. 

Drive east on U.S. -136 toward Beatrice and the junction of NE- 

4. From there, follow signs northwest to Homestead National 

Monument. 




Homestead National Monument at 
Beatrice. 




A-2. George Winslow Grave 

(4 miles north of Fairbury). 

49er George Winslow's trek to 

California ended here, where 

he died of cholera. His original 

gravestone is part of a larger 

monument that marks his burial 

place; a nearby interpretive 

sign tells the story. Multiple 

wagon ruts and swales of the 

Oregon and California Trails 

run southeast-to -northwest 

across the property, which never 

has been plowed. The ruts are best viewed in the autumn and winter 

months, after haying. The site is privately owned, but visitors are 

welcome and may enter by vehicle when the gate is open, or on foot 

when it is closed. Be sure to close the gate after entering on foot as 

livestock may be using the pasture. Open at owner's discretion. 
Directions: From intersection of U.S. -136 and NE-15 in Fairbury, 
drive north on 15 for 4 miles. Turn west on County Road 716 for 
approximately 1.25 miles. (If you cross the creek, you've gone too 
far.) The monument is visible about 200 yards from the road, in a 



George Winslow Grave site near 
Fairbury. 



28 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



hayfield on the north side of the road. Park and walk in if gate is 
open. Return to Fairbury to continue auto tour. 

A-3. Warpath on the Little Blue, Deshler- to-Oak Section. Several 
attacks took place on this stretch of the trail along the Little Blue 
River during the Indian war of August 1864. Roadside historical 
signs tell of the events that occurred in the vicinity, but exact sites are 
mostly unmarked and inaccessible on private farmlands. Even so, the 
route and countryside are steeped in history and are well worth the 
drive. 

Directions: From Fairbury, take U.S.-136 west to Deshler. 

Proceed as directed in individual site entries below. Oregon Trail 

and Pony Express highway markers will help you find your way 

along these country roads. 

A-4. Kiowa Station (7 miles northwest of Deshler). A granite marker 
commemorates the site of a one-time Pony Express station and later 
location of a stagecoach swing station. Several settlers were killed 
in this vicinity during the 1864 Cheyenne and Lakota attacks along 
the Little Blue. Site is now an agricultural field. Please do not enter 
private property. 
Directions: At Deschler, turn north on NE-5 and continue 5 
miles to the first intersection north of the Little Blue River. Turn 
west onto an unpaved county road, heading toward Oak. (Watch 
for historical markers along this route, which follows part of the 
old trail here.) Drive 1 mile west, then 0.5 mile north, and then 
0.5 mile west. Site marker is on the north side of the road, 0.5 mile 
west of the site. 

A-5. Emery Stagecoach 
Ambush Site (3.5 miles east of 
Oak). A roadside monument 
recounts the life-or-death race 
of a passenger-filled stagecoach 
chased through this area by 
a war party on Aug. 9, 1864. 
Please do not enter private 
property. 
Directions: From Kiowa 

29 




Site of 1864 stagecoach ambush. 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



Station, continue west approximately 4 miles, following trail 
markers. A marker commemorating the Emery ambush site is on 
the south side of the road. 

A-6. Bowie Ranch Site (2.5 miles east of Oak). A roadside sign marks 
the site of the William Bowie ranch, where a pioneer couple was slain 
in their home during the 1864 uprising. No remains of the ranch are 
visible. Please do not enter private property. 
Directions: From the Emery site, continue west for 0.5 mile, turn 
south toward the Little Blue for 0.5 mile, and then turn west again 
to parallel the river for another 0.5 mile. Watch for the sign on the 
north side of the road. 




Comstock Ranch Site at Oak Grove. 



A-7. Oak Grove Station/ 

Comstock Ranch Site (1.5 

miles east of Oak). On Aug. 7, 

1864, a suspiciously friendly 

party of 20 Cheyenne dropped 

in for a visit at Oak Grove 

Station, a busy road ranch 

operated by the Comstock 

family. While chatting casually 

with nervous ranch workers 

who had gathered for dinner, 

the Cheyenne suddenly struck, 

killing two men and wounding two more. Eleven ranch workers fled 

into the ranch house and another escaped into a nearby oak grove. 

The Indian fighters abruptly rode off as an ox train approached. The 

next day, the survivors fled and the raiders returned and set fire to 

the ranch buildings. No original structures remain, but the site retains 

its ranching character. The Oak Grove Pony Express Station is also 

commemorated here. Only the monument area is open to the public; 

please do not cross the fence. 
Directions: From the Bowie site, continue west for about a 0.5 
mile, then jog right to follow the curve of the river. Take the next 
left, which angles northwestward, and continue for about 0.75 
mile. The large granite marker is on the north side of the road. 



30 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



A-8. Warpath on the Little Blue, Oak-to-Deweese Section. Along 
this stretch of trail, Indian fighters killed several homesteaders and 
took four captives on Aug. 7, 1864. Specific locations where the 
events occurred are on private lands distant from the county road. 
Even so, it is easy to picture the events of that day while driving 
through this rural area. 
Directions: Begin by taking Railroad Street north through Oak 
and follow the road as it jogs west across the railroad tracks. Then 
proceed as directed in individual site entries below. Again, watch 
for Oregon Trail and Pony Express markers along the route. 

A-9. Eubank Homestead 

(1.5 miles northwest of Oak). 

Indian fighters destroyed the 

Eubank homestead and killed 

two children who were home 

alone. A short distance north 

of the ranch, three Eubank 

men and a teenage boy were 

slain while cutting hay and a 

younger boy was taken captive. 

An interpretive sign at the fence 

line tells the story. Please do not 

enter private property. 
Directions: A half mile after turning west out of Oak, the 
road turns north again. Stop at the corner and look toward the 
northwest. About a mile distant stood the Eubanks homestead. 

A- 10. The Narrows (2 miles northwest of Oak). The Eubank parents, 
their two babies, and a visiting teenage girl were taking a Sunday stroll 
along The Narrows section of the trail when they heard screaming 
from the homestead behind them. The father was slain as he ran to 
the aid of his children. The women and babies hid in the brush, but 
were discovered when the toddler screamed. All four were captured, 
to be released months later. 

Directions: From the Eubank homestead stop, drive north for 1.5 

miles to the next intersection. Drive west 1 mile and stop again. 

The Narrows is about 1 mile southwest of the road. Please do not 

enter private property. 




View looking toward Eubank Ranch 
from roadway. 



31 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 




Next, turn north, then follow the county roads as they stair-step north 
and west one mile at a time, following the curve of the Little Blue and the 
Oregon Trail toward Angus. You will make a series of 5 turns (including 
the north turn at The Narrows stop) before emerging onto NE-4 and 
continuing west (the 6 th turn). The Oregon Trail runs in a straight line 
southwest of the stair-steps and intercepts the county road in several 
locations. 

A-ll. The 1864 Uprising: 

Interpretive Marker (2.5 miles 

north of NE-4 and NE-14 

intersection). A Nebraska 

State Historical Society 

interpretive marker provides 

more information about the 

1864 uprising. There is also a 

granite marker 0.5 mile north 

across the Little Blue River. 

From the state marker, look east 

toward the hillside to see a series 

of parallel wagon ruts heading 

toward your location. This is private property. 
Directions: Drive west on NE-4 to NE-14; turn north and 
continue for about 2.5 miles. Interpretive marker is on the west 
side of the road, just south of the Little Blue River. 

From here, continue north on NE-14 to Spur 18-C. 

A- 12. Warpath on the Little Blue, Deweese to Kenesaw Section. 

Several road ranches, stage stations, and former Pony Express 
stations (remember, the Pony went out of business several years 
before the 1864 uprising) were located along this stretch of trail as it 
followed the Little Blue River northwestward. Watch for markers and 
monuments along the roadside. 

To follow this section of trail, turn west on Spur 18-C toward Deweese. 
Where the blacktop road curves south, straight ahead is the approximate 
location of Liberty Farm Station, a combination homestead, mail station, 
and road ranch that was destroyed in the Indian raids. From here, the 
Oregon/Pony Express Trail angles northwestward. After crossing the Little 



Nebraska SHS interpretive marker for 
1864 uprising. 



32 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Blue, turn west into Deweese, then north on Deweese Street. Follow the 
road as it heads out of town and jogs west, north, and then west again. 
Continue by following site directions below. 

A- 13. Pawnee Ranch (4 miles west and 3 miles north of Deweese). 
Some 60 settlers, freighters, and emigrants on the Oregon- California 
Trail took refuge here at sturdy Pawnee Ranch, holding off attackers 
for several days. A monument commemorates this event; no ranch 
remains are visible. Please do not enter private property. 
Directions: Continue west for 3 miles on County Road 3045, 
then turn north and cross the Little Blue. Continue a mile beyond 
the river and turn west. Take a right at the next intersection and 
watch for a monument near the corner on the east side of the 
road. 



A- 14. Spring Ranch (4.2 miles west and 3 miles north of Deweese). 
Spring Ranch, a prosperous road ranch, was left undefended by its 
owners when they rushed to safety in a nearby town. Indians burned 
the buildings and attacked two other homesteads in this vicinity, as 
well. Please do not enter private property. 
Directions: Drive north a short distance from the Huff grave 
marker, then turn west at the next road, County Road 3048, and 
cross Pawnee Creek at the old Oregon Trail crossing. From the 
bridge, look southeast of the confluence of the Pawnee Creek and 
the Little Blue to see the location of Spring Ranch. 

From here, continue west through the Spring Ranch Historical Area, the 

site of a town that sprang up after 

the uprising. Follow Road C north 

for 2 miles to NE-74 and turn 

west. 



asKR 



.'»•»'». 



ATTACK ON THE SIMONTON-SMITH TRAIN 



- 



_Jllt 300 yards $-%'<•*> 

own tocafry u irwwo Hoirow me joono of mo 
A total acton ol (ho rndtan wm ol I86« 



A- 15. Smith-Simonton Site (6 

miles south of Hastings). In this 
vicinity on Aug. 7, 1864, a war 
party ambushed a small train of 
Denver-bound freight wagons 
on the Oregon Trail, killing 
five teamsters and mortally 



■X ^. 



I .ind tp*i«ei<vi by unprovoked Attack* 
upon HxWf p^optu in CokVAdo Tmritory, Ihn South- 

il ChAynr.nr nrwl ArftpAliOA talvt«. drtomufwHl 10 



woo to be PMtoHui una eecunt. 
On |ne >>oi Sunday momma of Auputi 7. t 
Indent Ambushed e small trail of six wa$e 
crossing Indian Hoitow Tho tiam owned by "*o 
mat Simonton ol Denver woe rotuming from Si 
Joseph Mssotm. undo 'he tradership o' How* 
i oigo mtiudod a threshing maetune. 
iood" " 
n»o»l of which w.li oonnrjnrwt ro Of 



Five ol ih« drnm* me kiHed 

WnWy by arrows TNi nr.ffi. writ) one arrow *nv 

boddod >n hia forehead and another m nrt body. 

i bottom 

puftwj me wagon* up oul ol Vw rawne 
where the brtant cut »*m tree o* t*t hamewoe 
-■l *Wa;e. 
though not at nt Mm h * --.e-1 comPretery 

Monday morning. Av>q-.iV a Ooige 

1 f ■ vrvl on VM» scene 

!er. whorettfrNl n 

lew dews of tho attack botore he o*od The *» 

Pt buried on mo noge beenfc - 
•lbout 1 40 yard* Muff* <v thw port They wore ffco 
ot the gtonl nwrjj of August 7. t«M 
winch took .11 imm iody-«tghi twee m Wa fcf n aM 
Territory 

The monument at the grow* Mo was pwdedby 
< /l **» cMniM on S>orO*» 
a crowd of XV local ottzana 



Bpnaip -n ' 'u'tivij by 



DIlCUllK CMimilNIA TRAILS ASSOCIATION 



F 



Interpretive marker at the Smith- 
Simonton site. 



33 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



wounded a sixth. Look for an interpretive sign at the fence line; do 

not enter private property. 
Directions: Drive west on NE-74 to U.S. -281; turn north and 
drive 3 miles to Saddle Horn Road. Turn east and continue for 0.4 
mile to the marker on the south side of the road. 




Also of Interest: Hastings 

Museum of Natural and 

Cultural History (1330 North 

Burlington Avenue, Hastings) 

offers exhibits on the Pawnee 

and Sioux people, a display 

of trail-related artifacts, and 

dioramas featuring wildlife of 

the Plains. A modest admission 

fee is charged. 

Directions: From the Smith- 

Simonton wason train site Pawnee exhibit in the Hastings Museum. 

drive north on U.S.-281 into Hastings. Turn east on U.S.-34/6, 
then north on U.S.-281/Burlington Avenue. Continue north 
through town. The museum is on the east side of Burlington as 
you approach 14 th Street. 

To continue your auto tour from the Smith-Simonton site, turn north on 
U.S.-281 toward Hastings. The Oregon, California, and Pony Express 
Trail corridor continues northwest from the Smith-Simonton site and 
crosses U.S. -34/ 6 exactly 8 miles west of this turn. Upon approaching 
Hastings, turn west on U.S. -3 4/6. Watch for the Oregon and Pony Express 
Trails monument, erected by the 
Nebraska State Historical Society, - 
9 miles west of Hastings, on the 
north side of the highway. 





A- 16. Susan Hail Grave (2 

miles north and 3.5 miles west 
of Kenesaw). Susan Hail (or 
Haile) was 35 years old and the 
mother of six children when she 
died en route to California in 
1852. An interpretive sign tells 

34 



OF LAFAYETJE CO 1 

MISSOURI 
WHO DIED JUN. 
AGE 34 YRSs3aWt&J2 j*v<- 



rERtOISONEE 







Susan Hail grav esite. 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



her story. Gravesite is open to the public. 
Directions: From U.S. -34/6, turn north on Spur 1-A to Kenesaw. 
At the south edge of town, turn west on Pine Street and drive 1.5 
miles. Turn north on Winchester Avenue. Drive 3 miles and turn 
west on 70 th Street. Continue about 1.5 miles to pullout on north 
side of the road. Return to U.S. -34/6 to resume tour. 



A- 17. Harold Warp Pioneer 
Village (U.S.-34/6 and NE-10, 
Minden). This large museum 
exhibits more than 50,000 
historical objects and buildings, 
as well as a sizeable collection 
of original William Henry 
Jackson paintings depicting 
trail days. Its "Pumpkinseed 
Station," an 1860s-era log 
cabin, is thought by some to be 
an original Pony Express station, 
but other researchers have 




Outdoor exhibits area at the Harold 
Warp Musuem. 



determined that it actually served the Black Hills Stage route, instead. 

Open daily (including holidays except Christmas); for seasonal hours 

and current admission rates, call 800-445-4447. 
Directions: Take U.S. -34/6 west into Minden. The Pioneer Village 
is on the corner of U.S. -34/6 and NE-10. Parking is available on 
the east side of the museum between the Pioneer Motel, Pioneer 
Restaurant, and Pioneer Museum. 



A- 18. Fort Kearny State 
Historical Park (1020 V 
Road, south of Kearney). Fort 
Kearny was the first Western 
military post built to protect 
emigrants on the Oregon 
Trail, and it later served as the 
headquarters for a number 
of small outposts along the 
trail. Fort Kearny was also a 
Pony Express station and a place 




Fort Kearny State Historic Park . 



35 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



where travelers could re-supply. The park offers an interpretive center 
with trail-era artifacts, reconstructed buildings, and grounds. Open 
Memorial Day-Labor Day, daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. A Nebraska state park 
pass for admission to the park can be purchased at the interpretive 
center. 
Directions: From Minden, proceed north on NE-10 to Spur 
L-50A. Turn west on L-50A to Fort Kearny State Historical Park. 

To continue your site-by-site auto tour toward Wyoming, skip ahead in 
this guide to Auto Tour Segment D: Kearney to Wyoming Border. 



36 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



AUTO TOUR SEGMENT B: OMAHA-CENTRAL 
CITY-KEARNEY (Mormon Pioneer, California, and 

ALTERNATE OREGON TRAILS) 

Instead of driving across Kansas, many California, Oregon, and 
Utah bound emigrants set out from the Omaha and Council Bluffs 
area and followed the Mormon route into the Platte River Valley. An 
excellent place to begin your auto tour of the combined Mormon/ 
California Trails is at the remarkable public outdoor sculpture exhibit 
in downtown Omaha. 

B-l. Outdoor Sculptures: 
Pioneer Courage and Spirit 
of Nebraska Wilderness 

(between Dodge Street and 

Capitol Avenue, vicinity of 

15 th Street, Omaha). These 

stunning installations of 

heroic-scale covered wagons, 

livestock, men, women, 

children, buffalo, and geese 

span several blocks in the heart 

of downtown Omaha. Bring 

change for a parking meter so 

you can get out and explore. 
Directions: If following the 
Mormon Trail west from 
Council Bluffs, take 1-29 to 

1-480 west and cross into Omaha. Take the U.S.-6/Dodge Street 
exit toward Eppley Airfield and go straight to enter Dodge Street. 
At 13 th Street, turn north and park on Capitol Avenue between 15 th 
and 17 th Streets. If arriving from the west, take U.S.-6 eastbound 
into downtown Omaha. Turn north on 13 th Street and park on 
Capitol Avenue between 15 th and 17 th Streets. 

B-2. The Mormon Trail Center (3215 State Street, Omaha) is 
located in historic Winter Quarters (now, Omaha's District of 
Florence), where many of the first Mormon emigrants spent the 




Pioneer Courage sculptures. 



37 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



hungry winter of 1846-47. 

The visitor center, operated by 

The Church of Jesus Christ of 

Latter-day Saints, offers guided 

tours of trail exhibits (including 

handcarts and a cabin) and 

films recounting the Mormon 

emigration. Free. Open to 

all visitors daily, including 

Sundays, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. 
Directions: From downtown 
Omaha, go west on Dodge Street and turn north on N 17 th Street. 
At 0.2 mile, bear left onto 1-480 west and continue for just over 0.5 
mile. Take Exit 2C and merge onto U.S.-75 north. Drive 2.7 miles, 
bear right at North 30 th Street and continue for about 2 miles. 
Turn west at State Street and drive 3 blocks to the center. 




Mormon Trail Center. 



B-3. Mormon Pioneer 
Cemetery (opposite the 
Mormon Trail Center). 
Hundreds of Mormon emigrant 
men, women, and children 
who died here between 1846 
and 1848 were laid to rest 
on this hillside. The exact 
locations of most of their 
graves are unmarked. They are 
commemorated by an Avard 
Fairbanks statue of grieving 
parents, located in the north 
end of the cemetery. Open to all 
visitors, dawn to dusk. 
Directions: From the 
Mormon Trail Center, walk 
across the street and enter 
the cemetery through the 
memorial stairway and gate. 




Grieving parents sculpture at cemetery. 



38 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



B-4. Historic Winter Quarters occupied much of the same ground 
where the Omaha Waterworks is located today, east of North 30 th 
Street. The settlement stretched south about a mile from the Florence 
Winter Quarters Mill, the only remaining Mormon Pioneer building 
in the district — see entry B-5. Although, the historic settlement is 
gone, interpretive signs at two locations tell its story. 
Directions: From the Mormon Trail Center, head east on State 
Street 3 blocks to U.S.-75/N-30 th , the approximate location 
of historic Main Street. A Nebraska State Historical Society 
informational sign is located here. Turn north on U.S. -75 and 
drive 0.5 mile to N. 30 th Street and Dick Collins Road, and park 
in the little parking area beyond the firehouse. A wayside exhibit 
tells more of the story. 

B-5. The Old Florence Mill 

(9102 N. 30 th Street, Omaha) 

was built by Mormons in 

1846-47 to grind meal for the 

people of Winter Quarters. 

A grain elevator was added 

to the mill in 1915, but the 

original framework still stands. 

A historical museum and art 

gallery now occupy the mill 

and elevator. Open limited 

hours. Go to www.historicflorence.org or call 402-551-1233 for more 

information. A modest donation is requested. 
Directions: From Site B-4, turn east onto Dick Collins Road/ 
Historic Davenport Street and drive down the hill a short 
distance. 

B-6. Elkhorn Ferry Crossing (Elkhorn Crossing State Recreation 
Area, 252 nd Street and Bennington Road). The 1847 Mormon 
pioneers led by Brigham Young faced their first major river crossing 
here and built a ferry to assist those who followed. Site is interpreted 
by a wayside exhibit. Closed November 1-April 1. 
Directions: From Florence Mill, turn west on Dick Collins Road/ 
Historic Davenport Street and proceed across the interesection 
with North 30 th and North 31 st Streets. The road becomes U.S.- 




Old Florence Mill at Winter Quarters. 



39 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



75. In less than 0.5 mile, 

at the second traffic light, 

continue straight onto NE- 

36 and McKinley Street 

westbound. McKinley 

becomes Bennington Road. 

Where Bennington and NE- 

36 split, stay right on 36 and 

drive about 11 miles. Cross 

the Elkhorn River and turn 

south on the first road to 

the left (252 nd Street). Drive 1 mile and turn east on Bennington 

(gravel), into Elkhorn Crossing State Recreation Area. Continue 

approximately 1 mile to the interpretive exhibit overlooking the 

Elkhorn River. 




Elkhorn River crossing. 




B-7. Liberty Pole Camp 

(Fremont Lakes State 

Recreation Area). After 

crossing the Elkhorn River, 

the 1847 Mormon pioneers 

gathered their wagons 

around a cottonwood pole to 

reorganize for the trip west. 

Nothing remains of the camp; 

a wayside exhibit located off- 
site tells the story. 
Directions: From Elkhorn 

Crossing return to NE-36 and drive west 6 miles to U.S. -275. Turn 
north and drive approximately 4 miles, crossing Old Highway 8. 
The next road is Morningside; turn west there and drive 1 mile, 
then turn north on Luther Road. In approximately 0.5 mile turn 
west on Military Avenue. Drive through the town of Fremont 
to Ridge Road. Turn south and cross the railroad tracks, then 
immediately turn northwest onto State Lakes Road into Fremont 
Lake State Park. Park at the pay station. The wayside exhibit is 
ahead on a grassy slope. 



Near The Liberty Pole Camp site at 
Fremont Lakes State Recreation Area. 



40 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



At Columbus, Nebraska, 40 miles ahead, the trails split. The route of the 
1847 Mormons (and some California emigrants) followed the Loup River 
northwestward, while another route of the California Trail kept to the 
north side of the Platte River. 

The sites listed below are on the Mormon loop. To follow the Platte River 
route, take NE-30 west from Columbus. The two routes converge in 
Central City, Nebraska. 

Also of Interest: Genoa, 

Nebraska, was settled by 

Mormon settlers in 1857 as 

a way station for the Utah 

emigration. Two years later, it 

became agency headquarters 

for the newly established 

Pawnee Indian Reservation. 

Pawnee and settler artifacts 

are exhibited at the Genoa 

Historical Museum (402 

Willard Avenue/NE-22), open 

Memorial Day-Labor Day, Friday-Sunday, 1-5 p.m. Nebraska State 

Historical Society interpretive signs are located on the south end of 

Genoa City Park, west of NE-22. 
Directions: From Fremont Lakes State Park, return to Military 
Avenue, turn west, and follow it as it curves northward to 
intersect with U.S.-30. Drive west on U.S.-30 for 40 miles to 
Columbus. Turn north on U.S. -81 and continue for about 4.5 
miles and bear west on NE-22. Continue 16 miles to Genoa and 
follow the highway as it turns west through downtown. The 
museum is on the north side in mid-town. Stay on NE-22 as it jogs 
south again. The park is on the west side, and the signs are near a 
parking area on the south end of the park. 




Genoa Historical Museum. 



41 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 




Wagon ruts exhibit near Genoa. 



B-8. Genoa Ruts (1.5 miles 
southeast of Genoa). Original 
Mormon trail ruts can be 
seen here. Please do not enter 
private property. 

Directions: Route is well 

signed. Continue south 

through Genoa on NE-22 to 

a split where 22 turns west 

and NE-39 heads south. 

Just beyond the split is an 

intersection with an unsigned 

dirt road. Turn east there and 

drive 1 mile, then turn south on the next dirt road and drive 0.5 

mile to the wayside and site, located on the east side of the road. 

B-9. Pawnee Mission and 
Village Wayside (6 miles west 
of Genoa). Repeated attacks 
by Lakota Sioux and their allies 
on the Pawnee village near this 
pullout forced the Pawnees to 
abandon the site. A wayside 
exhibit tells the story. Please do 
not enter private property. 

Directions: From Genoa, 

take NE-22 west toward 

Fullerton. The exhibit is at a 

pullout on the north side of 

the highway about 6 miles 

west of Genoa. Watch for more Nebraska Historical Society 

informational signs along the highway as you continue toward 

Fullerton. 




Looking toward site of former 
Presbyterian Pawnee Mission. 



B-10. Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (3133 West Highway 
34, Grand Island) offers pioneer, Native American, and Old West 
exhibits, a settlement-style exhibit of original 1860s log cabins, a 
living 1890s railroad town community, a reconstructed Pawnee earth 
lodge, a prairie restoration exhibit, and a Nebraska State Historical 



42 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Society informational sign 
about the Mormon Trail. Open 
year-round, Monday-Saturday, 
9 a.m -5 p.m., Sundays noon-5 
p.m. Admission varies by age 
and season; contact 308-385- 
5316 or wvvw.stuhrmuseum.org 
for rates and group tours. 
Directions: From Fullerton, 
turn south on NE-14, then 
west on U.S. -30 into Grand 





Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer. 



Island. Follow highway signs onto U.S. -281 South and NE-2 
East (Tom Osborne Expressway.) In less than 2 miles, turn east 
onto U.S.-34 East and Husker Highway/Henry Fonda Memorial 
Highway and continue about 0.25 mile to Stuhr Museum. 



B-ll. Murdock/Mormon 
Trail Ruts (1.5 miles south 
of Alda). A wayside exhibit 
interprets these Mormon Trail 
wagon ruts. 
Directions: Enter Alda on 
U.S. -30 E. Turn south on 
Link 40C for about 1.5 miles, 
then west (watch for sign 
to site) on Guenther Road. 
Wayside is on the right. 




Mormon Trail wagon ruts along the 
Wood River. 



From here, take U.S.-30 toward Kearney. To continue your site-by-site 
auto tour toward Wyoming, skip ahead in this guide to Auto Tour Segment 
D: Kearney to Wyoming Border. 



43 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



AUTO TOUR SEGMENT C: Nebraska City-Central 
City-Kearney (California Trail) 

The "Oxbow Cutoff of the California Trail was heavily used by 
freighters hauling supplies and equipment to the western military 
forts in the late 1850s and 1860s. Gold-seekers and emigrants, 
including some Mormons participating in the ongoing "Gathering 
of Zion," also used the route. The cutoff angled northwestward from 
Nebraska City and entered the Platte River Valley south of today's 
city of Columbus. From there, wagons followed the river's south 
bank to Fort Kearny. Begin your auto tour from the old company 
headquarters of Russell, Majors and Waddell in Nebraska City. 

C-l. Russell, Majors, and gMflPBHflf* ' S ^B H H ^y^*ffP 

Waddell Building: The Old ■BP^B^j^P^^H^" 

Freighters Museum (407 WjEtlSnlL iWiMM^^W^^i ff i 

North 14 th Street, Nebraska ■HRHfli^^Ha^^^Pl 

City). This 1858 building was aJ^nHni * ItiRHbBJ^W I 
the corporate headquarters of S&J|H ' ~~^!1 ft' ! 

Russell, Majors and Waddell, M t K t j fwn ;| MS B 1 
a freighting company that yp K - B^^ffi' f E "51 "M 

supplied the western forts with W «k^ -*— - ^ — " 
military equipment. This is also old Freighters Museum of Russell, 
the company that operated the Majors, and Waddell. 
Pony Express out of St. Joseph, 

Missouri. The museum is open limited hours and by appointment. 
Call the Nebraska City Tourism and Commerce office at 402-873- 
3000 or check www.nebraskacity.com for information. Modest 
admission charged. 
Directions: Approaching Nebraska City eastbound on NE-2, 
take the U.S.-75 North and NE-2 business route into town. Turn 
left on 11 th Street/Business 75 and another left onto 3 rd Avenue. 
Continue 3 blocks to the museum on 14 th Street. Approaching 
Nebraska City westbound on NE-2, turn right (northwest) onto 
11 th Street/U.S.-75 business route, then left onto 3 rd Avenue. Drive 
3 blocks to the museum on 14 th Street. 

From here, drive east on 3 rd Avenue, then turn north on 11 th Street /U.S. -7 '5 
business route and follow it for about 3.5 miles. Turn right onto U.S.-75 

44 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 




and continue for 15 miles. Turn west on NE-1, then north on NE-63 to 
Ashland. 

C-2. Saline Ford/Oxbow Cutof f (Silve r Street, Ashland). Freighters 

and emigrants took advantage 

of Salt Creek's rock ledges 

to ford the stream as they 

continued toward the Platte 

River. A wayside exhibit at 

the town park tells the story. 

Also planned for the park is a 

sculpture, "Towers of History," 

which will commemorate 

local Indian tribes, the Oxbow 

Cutoff, and other aspects of S alt Creek Crossing at Ashland. 

area history. 
Directions: NE-63 intersects with U.S. -6 south of Ashland. Turn 
right (east) on U.S. -6 and continue for about 0.75 mile. Turn left 
(northwest) again onto NE-66 and cross the bridge into town. At 
the four-way stop, turn east onto Silver Street and drive about 1.5 
blocks toward Salt Creek; park at the pullout on the south side of 
the street before you cross the silver bridge. Almost directly below 
the bridge are the stone ledges where the wagons crossed. To see 
them, cross the berm near the edge of the parking area, walk east 
toward the bridge, and look along the stream bank below the 
bridge. 

C-3 Saunders County Museum (240 North Walnut, Wahoo) offers 
Oxbow Trail map and artifact exhibits (including a journal that 
describes travel on the Oxbow Trail), and trail research materials. 
Open summers April-September, Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., 
and Sunday, 1:30-4:00 p.m.; and winters October-March, Tuesday- 
Friday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. 
Directions: From Ashland, continue north on NE-63, which 
becomes NE-66 going west. Proceed west to intersection with a 
flashing light. Turn north on U.S.-77 (also called County Road 17) 
and continue north into Wahoo. After the first stop sign in town, 
go north 1 block and turn west onto 3 rd Street. The museum is on 
the southwest corner. 

45 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



From Wahoo, follow NE-92 west to U.S. -30. Turn west on U.S.- 30 to 
Grand Island. There you can visit the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer 
(see entry B- 10 for description and directions) and the Murdoch 'Mormon 
Trail ruts (see entry B-l 1). 

From Grand Island, take U.S.-30 west toward Kearney. To continue your 
auto tour, see Auto Tour Segment D: Kearney to Wyoming Border.. 



46 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



AUTO TOUR SEGMENT D: KEARNEY TO 
WYOMING BORDER 

(Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony 
Express Trails) 

For all four trails, your tour of this segment of the Great Platte River 
Road begins at the Archway Monument in Kearney, Nebraska. From 
there, the auto tour mostly follows U.S.-30, NE-92, and U.S.-26, with 
detours to sites on either side of the Platte River. 




Archway Monument at Kearney. 



D-l. The Great Platte River 
Road Archway Monument 

(Archway spans 1-80; entrance 

at 3060 East 1 st Street, 

Kearney). The Archway is a 

trail-themed visitor center with 

exhibits, family activities, and 

lots more to see and do. Open 

daily; hours vary seasonally. 

Check www.archway.org or 

call 877-511-2724 for more 

information. Modest admission 

charged; kids 5 and under free. 
Directions: From U.S. -30 and Grand Island, turn south at the 
intersection of U.S. -30 and 2 nd Avenue in Kearney and continue 
to the south through town. At the traffic light 1 block before 
1-80, turn east onto Talmadge Road and watch for signs to the 
Archway. At the end of the block turn south onto Central Avenue, 
go 1 block, and turn east onto 1 st Street/Archway Parkway. 
Continue 2 miles to the Archway Monument. 

From Ft. Kearny State Park, take NE-44 north across the Platte River, 
cross 1-80, and turn east onto Talmadge Road. Watch for signs to the 
Archway. At the end of the block turn south at Central Avenue, then 
east on 1 st Street /Archway Parkway. Continue 2 miles to the Archway 
Monument. 

D-2. Historical Wayside (1-80 rest area about 5 miles west of 
Kearney). Because this rest area is accessible only from the freeway's 

47 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



eastbound lanes, it requires 
backtracking. Here you will 
find historical information 
about Fort Kearny, forts of 
the Plains, and Mormon mail 
exchange on the trail. 

Directions: From the 

Archway, return to NE-44 

and turn north. Turn west 

on U.S. -30 and continue to 

Odessa. Turn south on NE- 

10B and enter 1-80 eastbound 

to the "Kearney Eastbound 

Rest Area" east of milepost 268. From here, return to 1-80 east 

toward Kearney and take Exit 272 to NE-44 north into Kearney. 

Turn west on U.S.-30 toward Overton. 




Mormon Trail Interpretive exhibit about 
mail exchange. 



D-3. Plum Creek Massacre Site and Cemetery (5 miles south of 
Overton). Here, Indian fighters attacked a Denver-bound wagon 
train, killing 13 men and capturing a woman and a boy. A historical 
sign, located at the nearby Plum Creek Massacre Cemetery, tells the 
story. Although the cemetery commemorates the victims, they were 
buried elsewhere. 
Directions: At Overton, turn south on NE-24B; cross 1-80 and the 
Platte River. Where the highway ends about 0.5 mile south of the 
river, turn west on County Road 748 and continue approximately 
1.5 miles. The site is on the north side of the road. Continue west 
for another 2 miles to the Plum Creek Cemetery, also on the 
north side of the road. From there, you can return to Overton 
and continue west on U.S.-30, or follow local roads as they jog 
west and north, following the Platte River, to County Road 433. 
There, turn north to U.S.-283 and following the highway north to 
Lexington. 

D-4. Dawson County Historical Museum (805 North Taft Street, 
Lexington). This area was hard-hit in the 1864 Indian raids, and two 
captives were taken in an attack on a Denver-bound wagon train near 
Plum Creek. Museum archives about these events include the original 
manuscript written by Nancy Morton about her six months' captivity 



48 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 





with the Sioux. The museum 

also offers a Great Platte River 

Road exhibit about the Oregon, 

Mormon, and Pony Express 

Trails, exhibits of trail-related 

artifacts, and a locally produced 

driving guide to local historical 

locales (including the Plum 

Creek vicinity). Closed Sundays 

and Mondays. For hours go to 

www.dchmuseum.com. A free- 
will donation is requested in lieu 

of an admission fee. 
Directions: From U.S. -30, turn north onto Jackson Street. Turn 
east onto 6 th Street, then north on Taft. Museum is on west side of 
Taft. From here, return to U.S.-30 west. 

D-5. Willow Island Pony Express Station (8 th Street, Cozad). The 
original Willow Island Station has been relocated to Cozad's Veterans 
Memorial Park, at 104 East 9 th Street. Building is not open, but can be 
viewed from the street. 

Directions: From U.S. -30, turn north on F Street, then east on 9 th 

Street. 



Dawson County Historical Museum. 



D-6. Gothenburg Pony 
Express (Ehman Park, NE-47 
and 15 th Street, Gothenburg). 
A trail-era cabin thought by 
some to be an original Pony 
Express Station is located 
in a Gothenburg city park. 
Other researchers believe this 
historic cabin — now used as a 
Pony museum — was part of a 
trailside road ranch on a route 
once used by the Pony Express, 
but was not an actual Pony Express station. Open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. in 
summer months, 9 a.m.-6 p.m in May and September. 
Directions: Route is well signed. From U.S. -30, turn north into 




Gothenburg Pony Express Station. 



49 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



Gothenburg on NE-47. Continue on 47 north through town, 
following signs to Ehman Park. From here, continue to North 
Platte on U.S.-30. 






•>* 



Y 






;,., 




Also of Interest: Fort 

McPherson National 

Cemetery (12004 South 

Spur 56-A, 4.5 miles south of 

Maxwell). Fort McPherson was 

established in 1863 to protect 

the emigrant trails and the 

railroad; today nothing remains 

of the original fort. The national 

cemetery, where soldiers from 

many of the western posts are 

buried, was established in 1873 Fort McPherson National Cemetery. 

and is still in operation. Just south of the center of the cemetery in 
Section B is a monument commemorating Fort Laramie soldiers 
killed in the Grattan Fight, which triggered the Plains Wars that 
occurred after 1854. Pawnee Scout Spotted Horse also is buried 
here, at C285. Brochures and information are available in the public 
information building near the cemetery entrance. Visitors can use 
the intercom phone there to contact staff and request a printed guide 
to the cemetery. (Staff is unavailable when funerals are in progress.) 
Open dawn to dusk. 
Directions: From U.S. -30 in Maxwell, turn south on Spur 56-A/ 
Fort McPherson Road. Cross 1-80 and continue for another 1.5 
miles. 



D-7. Roadometer Starting 
Point (North Platte Regional 
Airport, east of North Platte). 
Several Mormon pioneers 
collaborated in creating a 
"roadometer" to measure the 
miles the Brigham Young party 
traveled each day. A wayside 
exhibit, in the vicinity of the 
camp where the device was first 



1 




Mormon Trail interpretive exhibit about 
Roadometer. 



50 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 




Sand Hill ruts. 



used, tells the story. The camp itself lies beneath the airport runway. 
Directions: North Platte Regional Airport is a short distance 
east of the city of North Platte. From U.S.-30, turn south into the 
airport entrance. The wayside is in a parking lot median. From 
here, continue west on U.S. -30. 

D-8. The Sand Hill Ruts (4 

miles north of Sutherland). 
Deep ruts and swales are still 
visible where the Mormon 
Trail crests the sand hills and 
descends toward the valley. A 
wayside exhibit tells the story. 

Directions: As you 

approach Sutherland, 

watch for Pioneer Trace/ 

Prairie Trace Road near 

the east edge of town. Drive 

north for 3.8 miles on Pioneer Trace/Prairie Trace Road. Watch 

for roadside pullout on the east side of the road. 

From here, continue to Sutherland and turn south on NE-25 to 1-80. Enter 
1-80 eastbound to access the O' Fallon's Bluff interpretive area. 

D-9. O'Fallon's Bluff Trail 
Ruts & Interpretive Area 

(1-80 eastbound rest area near 
Sutherland). Because this site 
is accessible only via I-80's 
eastbound lanes, it requires 
backtracking. This freeway 
rest area is also an interpretive 
park for the emigrant trails. 
Wagon traces are still visible 
here — you can walk in them 
— and Nebraska State Historical 
Society signs tell the story of the 
Great Platte River Road. 
Directions: From 1-80 eastbound, take the rest area exit between 




O 'Fallon's Bluff Rest Area on 1-80. 



51 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



mileposts 159 and 160. To continue auto tour, re-enter the 
freeway and continue east for about 5 miles. Exit at the Hershey 
interchange and take Spur road 56-C through town. Turn west on 
U.S.-30. 

D-10. California Hill (4.5 miles west of Brule). Deep ruts are carved 
into California Hill, where wagons pulled up out of the Lower 
California Crossing of the Platte River. 
Directions: Drive west through Brule on U.S. -30 for about 4 
miles. Watch for a granite 1912 Nebraska State Historical Society 
monument for the Oregon Trail on the north side of the road. 
About 0.5 mile beyond that, turn north on a gravel road, Road 
West MN. One-half mile from that turn, stop and park. Please 
view from the roadside. Return to U.S.-30 and continue west. 




D-ll. Colorado Welcome 

Center (Julesburg, Colorado). 

This visitor center has outdoor 

and inside exhibits on Pony 

Express, California, and 

Oregon Trail history. Here you 

can also pick up a South Platte 

River Trail brochure, which 

will guide you on a loop tour of 

trail and other historical sites 

between Julesburg and Ovid 

— an area that was hard hit by 

the ongoing Plains Wars in 1865. 

Most roads on this tour are unpaved. 
Directions: From U.S. -30, turn south on NE-27 (7 miles east of 
Chappell). Cross 1-80. Almost 2 miles later, the road will split: 
follow it east 1 mile and south 2 miles to the Colorado border, 
where the road becomes CO-11. Follow CO-11 south into 
Julesburg. In Julesburg, turn east on U.S.-138; then turn south 
on U.S.-385. Cross the Platte River. Welcome Center is at the 
intersection of U.S.-385 and County Road 28, immediately north 
of 1-76. 



Colorado Welcome Center at Julesburg, 



52 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



D-12. Trail Ruts (Julesburg). As you follow the Julesburg-Ovid loop 
tour, look past the fence lines for white posts that mark the locations 
of trail ruts and swales, and also watch for Pony Express monuments 
and interpretive signs about a variety of local historical events and 
locales. Devil's Dive, where the trail descends a steep slope, is one of 
the first stops on the tour. 

Directions: Turn left from 

the Welcome Center Driveway 

onto County Road 28 and 

drive 0.9 mile. Devil's Dive is 

on the right. 



D-13. Julesburg No. 1 

(Julesburg). An Overland Stage 
and Pony Express station and 
outbuildings were burned by 
Lakota and Cheyenne warriors in 
1865, following a 4-mile running 
battle between the Indian fighters 
and the U.S. Calvary. No original 
buildings remain. 
Directions: Continue west on 
County Road 28 for about 5 more 
miles. Pullout, interpretive signs, 




Historical monument at Old 



Julesburg site. 
and Pony Express monuments are on the right. 




mam 

Across this field is site of Old Fort 
Sedgwick. 



D-14. Fort Sedgwick 

(south of Ovid, Colorado), 
originally named Camp 
Rankin, was built in 1864 
to protect travelers and the 
transcontinental telegraph 
during the ongoing Plains 
wars. The fort was abandoned 
in 1871. No original buildings 
remain, but the site is marked 
with a flagpole. 

Directions: Continue west on 
County Road 28 for about a 



53 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



mile. Pullout is on the right. The flagpole indicating the original 
fort site can be seen in the privately owned fields beyond the 
pullout. 

D-15. Upper California Crossing (east of Ovid, Colorado). Just east 
of here was the Upper California Crossing, where the Pony Express, 
California, and Oregon Trails crossed the South Platte River and 
started northwestward to Wyoming. White trail markers in the field 
indicate where wagons entered the river. 
Directions: Turn north on County Road 27.8 and cross the South 
Platte River into Ovid. Turn east on U.S.-138. In the next block, 
the military trail from Fort Sedgwick crossed on its way to Ft. 
Laramie. Continue past Lodgepole Creek to a pullout on the right 
where there is a plaque about Ft. Sedgwick. The original Upper 
California crossing of the Oregon, California, Pony Express, and 
transcontinental telegraph routes crossed 0.8 mile east of the 
pullout. 



D-16. Fort Sedgwick Depot 
Museum (201 West 1 st Street, 
Julesburg).The old Union 
Pacific Depot exhibits Indian 
and pioneer relics. Open 
summers, Monday-Friday, 
9 a.m.-4 p.m.; LaborDay- 
Memorial Day, Monday-Friday, 
9 a.m.-l p.m. 
Directions: As you enter 
Julesburg on U.S.-138, the 
Depot Museum is on the right 
near the railroad tracks. 




Fort Sedgwick Depot Museum. 



To resume the auto tour for the Mormon Pioneer, Oregon, and California 
Trails, continue east on U.S. -13 8 to Big Springs. There, turn north on 
County Road 207, continue to U.S.-26, and turn west. Proceed to Ash 
Hollow (entry D-l 7, below). 

To follow the Pony Express Trail, take U.S.- 138 west out of Julesburg for 
about 2 miles. Turn north on U.S.-385 to Chappell, and there turn west on 
U.S.-30 to Sidney. Turn north on U.S.-384 to rejoin the auto tour on NE- 

54 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



92. Continue west on NE-92 toward Bridgeport. Skip ahead in this guide 
to entry D-23 below. 

D-17. Ash Hollow Complex 

(about 2 miles southeast of 

Lewellen). The Ash Hollow 

Complex includes two separate 

areas administered as Ash 

Hollow State Historical Park. 

Altogether, the park protects 

over 1,000 acres of historic trail 

and surrounding landscape. 

Attractions include a park 

visitor center, a pioneer grave, 

and an impressive series of trail 

ruts and swales. A ferocious 

battle between the Pawnee and Lakota Sioux also took place in this 

valley. 
Directions to park complex: From the junction of County Road 
207 and U.S. -26, drive west approximately 1.5 miles. Watch for the 
entrance to Windlass Hill on the west side of the road. 




Platte River Valley from above Ash 
Hollow. 



D-17.a: Windlass Hill is 

scarred by deeply eroded ruts 
cut by thousands of wagons 
sliding downhill with their 
wheels locked. A paved (but 
steep) walking trail with 
outdoor exhibits leads visitors 
along the ruts to the top of the 
hill, where hikers are rewarded 
with a vista of Ash Hollow and 
the Platte River. Open daily 
year-round, 8 a.m. to sunset. 




Windlass Hill ruts at Ash Hollow. 



Now continue on U.S.-26 west for 2 more miles to the main park entrance, 
which is on the east side of the road. 

D-17.b: Ash Hollow State Historical Park, Headquarters Area. 
Daily permit or annual Nebraska state park pass can be purchased at 

55 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



the visitor center here. The visitor center has trail-related exhibits; a 
cave with archeological exhibits and a public picnic area are nearby. 
Grounds are open daily year-round, 8 a.m. to sunset. The visitor 
center and cave are open limited hours, currently, Thursday-Sunday, 
9 a.m.-4 p.m. Call 308-778-5651 for information. 

From here, continue on U.S. -26 west for less than 1 mile to Ash Hollow 
Cemetery. Cemetery entrance is on the west side of the road. 



D-17.c: Pioneer Grave at Ash 
Hollow Cemetery. Rachel 
Pattison was an 18 -year- old 
bride of two months and 
on her way to Oregon when 
cholera took her life here in 
1849. Her trailside grave was 
the beginning of this pioneer 
cemetery. To find her burial 
place, turn right toward the 
north end of the cemetery. A 
monument, which preserves her 
original gravestone, is near the 
flagpole. 

D-18. Blue Water Battlefield/ 
Harney Massacre/Battle of 
Ash Hollow Historic Wayside 

(1.8 miles west of Lewellen). In 
retaliation for the 1854 killing 
of 29 U.S. soldiers in Wyoming 
(the "Grattan Fight"), troops 
under General William Harney 
from Fort Kearny destroyed a 
Lakota Sioux village near here 
at Blue Creek the following 
year. Indian strikes against 
travelers and settlers along the 
Great Platte River Road in the 
1860s were, in part, retribution 

56 




Historical monument at Ash Hollow 

Cemetery. 



NEBMSKX 



HISTORICAL - 



THE BATTLE OF BLUE WATER 

5 On September 3. 1855. the U 5. Army's 600-man 
\ Sioux Expedition, commanded by Col William S. 
Harney, attacked and destroyed a Lakota \ illage 
I located three miles north on Blue Creek. The fight 
became known as the Battle of Blue Water, sometimes 
the Battle of Ash Hollow after the nearby landmark. 
or the Harney Massacre. 

The army s attack avenged the Indian annihilation 
of Lt. John Crattans command near Fort Laramie In 
1854. Harney concluded the more than 250 Brule 
and Oalalas camped on Blue Creek were the gmlt> 
oartles He divided his force and led his infantry 
fnlnrrU the village. While Harney engaged In a 
towards me viimy*.. i t.+ir Thunder, the 

j ei-.- with its new. long-range 
The infantry opened fire with Its n ^ ^ 

r ,fle S and forced the nd tans *»" ^ aMi 
mounted soldiers, who In'"'" nty .omen and 

Flqhty-slx Indians were killed. » wan r ( 
chUdr^n were *#*$£*£*<& overlooked. 
and burned. This first y UKo ,„ Kept the 
mima ry campaign against , poned until 



Historical monument at the Battle of 
Blue Water site. 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



for the killings at Blue Creek. A Nebraska State Historical Society sign 
tells the story; the actual battlefield, not visible from the pullout, is on 
private land several miles distant from the road. Please do not enter 
private property. 
Directions: Continue through Lewellen on U.S.-26 and NE-92 for 
1.8 miles. Wayside is on the north side of the highway. 

D-19. John Hollman Grave (2.5 miles south of Oshkosh). Emigrant 
John Hollman died in 1852, possibly of cholera. His original 
gravestone still marks his resting place; a Nebraska State Historical 
Society sign tells of death on the trail. 

Directions: Continue into Oshkosh on U.S.-26 and turn south on 

NE-27. Grave is 2 miles south of Oshkosh. 



D-20. Frog's Head Bluff 
(Indian Lookout Point) 
Interpretive Wayside (2 miles 
west of Lisco). More widely 
known as Indian Lookout 
Point, this stone projection 
looked like the profile of 
a frog's head to the 1847 
Mormon pioneers. A wayside 
exhibit tells the story. The 
landmark is privately owned; 
please do not enter. 





Distant view of Ancient Bluff Ruins from 
the east. 



Indian Lookout Point along U.S. -26. 



Directions: Take U.S. -26 and 
NE-92 west toward Lisco. 
Wayside pullout is about 2 
miles west of Lisco, on the 
north side of the highway. 

D-21. Ancient Bluff Ruins 
and Narcissa Whitman 
Interpretive Waysides (6 
miles west of Lisco, 8 miles 
east of Broadwater). Narcissa 
Whitman, a missionary and 
one of the first white female 



57 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



overland travelers, passed by here in 1836. Brigham Young and his 
advance group of Latter-day Saints camped near here 11 years later. 
Interpretive signs and waysides tell the stories. 

Directions: Continue west on U.S. -26 and NE-92 from Lisco. 

Pullout is on the north side of the road east of Broadwater. 

Continue on U.S. -26 toward Broadwater. At the east edge of town, turn 
south onto NE-92 west toward Bridgeport. 



D-22. Amanda Lamme 
(or Lamin) Grave (5 miles 
southeast of Bridgeport). 
Twenty- eight-year- old Amanda 
Lamme died near here in 1850 
while on her way to California. 
Her grave, located on private 
property, cannot be viewed 
from the road, but a Nebraska 
State Historical sign interprets 
the site and discusses death 
on the trail. Please do not enter 
private property. 



■ 


1 


' t: ' 11 ' '■■' ■-• ■« 


^^B 

+ - : """— 


i t 




AMANDA LAMME 


" " ■ ■■'■■■ 

Cnlll ... 

.■',.■ 






-■■■ 
■ .1 


■■ 


i 




... 








. ■ 

. ■ ■ ■ : 

;■:: ■ ■■ ■ . 












k-~~— i 




■ 



















Nebraska Historical marker for Amanda 
Lamme grave. 



Directions: Pullout is on NE-92 north of the intersection of that 
highway and U.S.-385. 

D-23. Mud Springs State 

Historical Site & Pony 

Express Station (5.5 miles 

north of Dalton) Caution! 

This site is accessed by a dirt 

road that may be unsuitable 

for low-clearance vehicles. 

Site is in rural area open to 

livestock. Mud Springs was a 

Pony Express home station 

— a place where riders ate 

and slept — and an Overland 

Stage and transcontinental telegraph station. It also is the site of an 

1865 skirmish between stage station employees, the U.S. cavalry, and 




Mud Springs Pony Express station. 



58 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne fighters. Free public access to monument 

area; do not enter nearby private land. 
Directions: From the junction of NE-92 and U.S. -385, drive south 
for 8.1 miles on U.S. -385. Turn west onto a dirt road (intersection 
is near a feature mapped as "Lookout Mound") and watch for 
signs to Mud Springs. Turn left on Mud Springs Road. Pass the 
Pony Express Trail marker and watch for a small, white sign 
reading "Monument." From here, return to U.S. -385 and drive 
north. 





D-24. Courthouse & Jail 
Rocks (5 miles south of 
Bridgeport). Travelers on 
the south side of the river 
had a close-up view of these 
celebrated landmarks. 

Directions: From U.S. -385 

where you exit Mud Springs, 

turn north for about 2.5 

miles. Turn west on County 

Road 78 (paved). The road 

jogs north and becomes 

County Road 105, then jogs west and becomes County Road 

82. Turn right (north) on NE-88 toward Bridgeport and cross 

Pumpkin Creek. A Nebraska Historical Society sign and pullout 

are on the west side of the road, and a gravel road will take you 

closer to the features. 



View Of Courthouse and Jail Rocks. 



D-25. Courthouse & Jail Rocks: View from the Mormon Trail (2 

miles northeast of Bridgeport). Although they were on the opposite 
side of the river, Mormon emigrants could see Courthouse and Jail 
Rocks, and often noted them in their journals. 
Directions: From NE-88, continue north through Bridgeport and 
cross the Platte River. Turn west on U.S. -26. A pullout with a view 
of the landmarks and an interpretive wayside is located on the 
north side of the highway about 2 miles east of Bridgeport. Return 
to Bridgeport and continue west on U.S.-26 and NE-92. 



59 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



D-26. Chimney Rock National 
Historic Site (1 mile south 
of Bayard). Again, travelers 
on the Mormon Pioneer Trail 
viewed this famous landmark 
from a distance while those 
on the Oregon, California, and 
Pony Express Trails passed 
much closer. Watch for a 
roadside pullout with a wayside 
exhibit (west of U.S. -26 where 
it turns north from NE-92, 




Chimney Rock from U.S. -26. 



near milepost 47) telling of the first Mormons to view the feature. 
Chimney Rock grounds and visitor center are open daily year-round, 
and closed on state and federal holidays. Modest admission charged. 
Directions: Continue west from Bridgeport on U.S. -26 and NE- 
92 for about 12.5 miles. Turn south on County Road 75 and follow 
signs to the visitor center. Return to NE-92 West. 

D-27. Rebecca Winters Grave 

(1 mile east of Scottsbluff ). 

Fifty-year- old Rebecca Winters, 

a Mormon emigrant, died of 

cholera near here while on 

her way to Utah in 1852. Her 

resting place is marked with 

an iron wagon wheel rim that 

was inscribed with her name 

when she died. A monument, 

Nebraska Historical Society 

sign, and a wayside exhibit 

commemorate the site and interpret the Mormon emigration. 
Directions: Return to NE-92 and drive west toward Gering. 
Approaching town, turn north on NE-23 and Scottsbluff-Gering 
Bypass to the South Beltline Highway. Turn east; the road turns 
northward and crosses the railroad tracks. Immediately after 
crossing the tracks, turn right on Rebecca Winters Drive. The 
grave is in the small triangle between the railroad tracks, South 
Beltline Highway, and U.S.-26. 




Rebecca Winters grave site. 



60 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 




D-28. North Platte Valley 

Museum (11 th and J Streets, 

Gering).This museum offers 

exhibits about American 

Indians, Robidoux Trading 

Post, emigrant trails and cabins, 

and Rebecca Winters. It also 

houses the archival collection 

of renowned emigrant trail 

scholars Paul and Helen 

Henderson. The museum 

gallery is open year-round 

Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; 

and summer weekends (Memorial Day-Labor Day) 1-4 p.m. Modest 

admission charged; kids 5 and under free. Researchers may call 308- 

436-541 lto request access to archival collections. 
Directions: From the Winters monument, take the South Beltline 
Highway west into Scottsbluff. Turn south on Broadway/10 th 
Street/NE-71 Business Route and cross the North Platte River 
into Gering. Continue south through town; turn west onto J 
Street 1 block to end at the museum. 



*» 



BRB - "^ 



Entrance way to North Platte Valley 
Museum. 



D-29. Robidoux's First 

Trading Post (8 miles west of 

Gering). Before the overland 

trails cut through Scotts Bluff, 

they swung south around it. 

Joseph Robidoux built the first 

of two trading posts in this 

vicinity in 1849 to serve the 

Oregon and California traffic. 

It later burned; no buildings 

remain. Some researchers 

question whether the marked Site of Robidoux's first trading post. 

location is the actual site of the fort. 
Directions: Return to NE-92 (Old Oregon Trail Road), then 
turn south on NE-71. South of Gering, turn west on Robidoux 
Road (watch for sign to Robidoux Pass and blacksmith shop), 
a maintained gravel road suitable for cars. In 4 miles, the road 




61 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 




Pioneer graves east of the summit from 
Robidoux Pass. 



jogs north and then west. Continue another 4 miles. As the road 
curves northwest, watch for the Robidoux Post site on a low rise 
on the south side of the road. Park along the road and walk up to 
the site. (If you see a sign for pioneer graves, you have passed the 
trading post site by about 0.2 miles.) 

D-30. Pioneer Graves (8 

miles west of Gering). Wagon 
swales and four anonymous 
pioneer graves are located near 
Robidoux's Post. Watch for 
white trail markers and ruts 
along the road. 

Directions: From the 

trading post, continue 

northwest on the gravel road 

a short distance, about 0.2 

mile. Turn north onto a rough 

two-track or park along the 

road and walk in. The graves are 0.1 mile from the road. 

D-31. Robidoux Pass (9 miles 
west of Gering). This pass was 
used by Oregon and California- 
bound traffic until Mitchell 
Pass was opened through 
Scott's Bluff in 1851. Watch for 
ruts on the south side of the 
road. 

Directions: From the 

gravesite, return to the main 

gravel road and continue 

northwest to the crest of the 

hill. At the hilltop, turn right 

down a two-track a short distance to an interpretive panel about 

the pass. Return to the gravel road and continue west over the 

hill; watch for a road sign for Robidoux Pass. 




Robidoux Pass beyond the interpretive 
marker. 



62 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 

Nebraska 



D-32. Robidoux's Second 
Post (about 9 miles southeast 
of Gering). The log buildings at 
this site are a reconstruction of 
Robidoux's second post, built 
in 1851. Interpretive signs tell 
the story. 
Directions: At Robidoux 
Pass, the road makes a 
hairpin turn and then splits. 
Continue straight (south) 
onto Summit Ranch Road. 




Robidoux's second trading post. 



Follow it for about 3 miles and turn east onto to Carter Canyon 
Road, watching for directional signs to the post. Continue about 
1.5 miles to the reconstructed post on the south side of the road. 

D-33. Scotts Bluff National 

Monument (2 miles west of 

Gering). The first wagon trails 

skirted around this majestic 

geological formation, but 

a later route cut through at 

Mitchell Pass. Attractions 

include a visitor center with 

a trail museum and artwork 

by pioneer photographer and 

artist William Henry Jackson; 

a short hiking trail; and a paved 

driving route (with free shuttle 

in the summer). Wagon swales are still visible. Trails are open year- 
round, dawn to dusk. Visitor center is open daily, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. in the 

summer and 8 a.m.-5 p.m. in other seasons. Admission is $5/car, $3/ 

motorcycle. 
Directions: From Robidoux's Second Post, continue on Carter 
Canyon Road as it swings north once more to Robidoux Road. 
Turn east and onto Robidoux and continue to NE-71. Turn north 
on 71 toward Gering. Turn west again on NE-92 (Old Oregon 
Trail Road) and continue into Scotts Bluff National Monument. 




Mitchell Pass at Scotts Bluff National 
Monument. 



63 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 




D-34. Horse Creek Treaty 
Grounds and Battle Site (2 

miles southwest of Morrill). 

This spot in September 1851 

was the campground of some 

12,000 tribal representatives 

— the largest gathering 

of Indians ever recorded. 

They came to work out the 

terms of a treaty to protect 

the emigrant trails and 

compensate the tribes for that 

use of their lands and resources. 

At the same site in 1864 a band of Lakota Sioux resisted efforts of 

the U.S. Army to move them to Ft. Kearny, resulting in a fight known 

as the Battle of Horse Creek. Nebraska State Historical Society 

interpretive panels tell about the treaty; privately owned treaty 

grounds can be viewed from the pullout. 
Directions: From Scotts Bluff National Monument, continue 
west on NE- 92 (Old Oregon Trail Road) to NE-29. Turn north on 
29 and drive to U.S.-26. Turn west on U.S.-26. Interpretive pullout 
is 4 miles west of Morrill. 



Roadside pullout and interpretive 
markers for Horse Creek Treaty site. 



This ends the auto tour route of the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, 
and Pony Express National Historic Trails through Nebraska. To continue 
west along the auto tour route, follow U.S. -26 toward the Wyoming border 
and Fort Laramie National Historic Site. 



64 



Auto Tour Route Interpretive Guide 
Nebraska 



For More Information: 

National Park Service: 

National Trails System Office 
324 South State Street 
Suite 200 
Salt Lake City, UT 84111 

Email: 

ntsl_interpretation@nps.gov 

California NHT 

www.nps.gov/cali 

Mormon Pioneer NHT 

www.nps.gov/mopi 

Oregon NHT 

www.nps.gov/oreg 



Pony Express NHT 

www.nps.gov/poex 

Nebraska Tourism: 

www.visitnebraska.org 

Colorado Tourism: 

www.Colorado.com 

Oregon & California Trails 
Association - OCTA: 

www.octa-trails.org 

Mormon Trails Association: 

www.mormontrails.org 

National Pony Express 
Association: 

www.xphomestation.com 



Credits: 



Research & Text: Lee Kreutzer, Cultural Resources Specialist, 
National Trails Intermountain Region 

Layout/Design & Graphics: Chuck Milliken, Lead Interpretive 
Specialist, National Trails Intermountain Region 

Graphic Images: cover image "Approaching Chimney Rock" and all 
other paintings not labeled are by William Henry Jackson from the 
NPS collection at Scotts Bluff National Monument. Photographic 
images not labeled are from the National Park Service. Images 
on page 17: Walter McClintock "Teepees on the Plains," page 18: 
Frederick Remington "Indians Attack Wagon Train," and page 
21: Charles M. Russell "Indians on the Wagon Trail" are from the 
Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University. 



66 



C 21.1/2: H 62/S/2o|o 







National Historic Trails 

Nebraska - Northeastern Colorado 

Auto Tour Route Map 



N 



W 




• 


Auto Tour Route 




Interpretive Feature 


— 


Oregon Trail 


M^BM 


Mormon Pioneer Trail 





California Trail 


^^W* 


Pony Express Trail 


© 


Interstate Highway 


« 


U.S. Highway 





Nebraska State Road 



Nebraska 



Colorado 



© 7. 



M 




National Trails System 

National Park Service 

U.S. Department of the Interior 



..ON >"% 








FOR FREE DISTRIBUTION